Posts tagged Museums

Trains, Trains, and Automobiles Part 2

After the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, I decided that we needed one more fun train activity for December. The Minnesota Transportation Museum has a train museum at the Jackson Street Roundhouse, and we decided to give it a go. My lovely friend Melissa is also blessed with a little trainophile, so we met for a little playdate.

The best thing about the train museum is that no one actually goes there. No lines, few other children to fight with, lots of open space – it is really quite lovely with lots of natural light. The worst thing about the train museum is that no one actually goes there. That makes for a surplus of elderly male volunteers just itching to talk train and show you around the place. This would be great if our whole party was over the age of twelve. Two year-old boys just aren’t the most appreciative of a tour guide’s vast knowledge.

So I spent the whole time simultaneously trying to listen to the tour guide (let’s call him “Ed”) not only to be polite, but because the history behind the exhibits was interesting, and trying to keep Rex-Goliath from doing any number of things that he shouldn’t (including but not limited to breaking the train signals, stealing the model trains, falling into pits in the floor, pulling down the cow catcher exhibit, and just plain running off). It, as all things involving motherhood, was a balancing act.

When we arrived at the museum, the boys spotted the train tables immediately. I knew that if we didn’t allow them to play around for a bit we would spend the whole time trying to keep the things from pulling the boys away from us like a giant toddler boy magnet. They had an impressive set-up of wooden Thomas track and trains.

Ed, who appointed himself our tour guide, hung around giving us facts about the museum. Ed had lots of plans for us – showing us the train cars, letting the boys push buttons to make train whistles go, and taking us outside to see some train thing.

Exchange between Ed and I while we moms were trying to finish our coffee and the boys were gleefully stealing trains from each other:

Ed (excitedly): See my hat? That logo is from the Northern Balhousie Railroad.

Me (nodding): That’s really cool.

Ed (pointing wildly): See that train on the TV? We have that train right back there! I can show you it if you want.

Me (craning my neck around, trying to get back-up from Melissa, who was slinking away, staring into her cup): Yeah, I bet the boys would like that after they are done playing.

Ed (practically dragging me to get my coat): During the summer, we give caboose rides out back. If you come back in the summer, you guys could ride in the caboose. But I could show you the caboose today if you want.

Me (looking around desperately): Yeah, we definitely should check that out in the summer.

Ed (unsure as to why we would still be standing amongst the train tables): This building is the only building in the state that has a working turntable. If you want to go out back, I could show you that. Or I could show you that train over there…

Eventually I had to acquiesce. So we had a little tour of the place. While managing diaper bags and little boys, trying not to spill our styrofoam cups of near-boiling liquid on the precious antique train furnishings.

Ed told us that this train made for a good photo op. For some reason, Rex-Goliath was terrified of the thing. But with promises of candy and a good shove, I convinced him to pose despite fearing for his life.

The coolest train they had was the former private car of some rich guy. I am assuming that having a private train car back in the day was akin to having a private jet now. Although it is possible that it was more comparable to having a private Winnebago.

I was impressed that they decorated it for Christmas. Ed warned us that they only do this around the holidays, though.

The best part about having your own train car is that they put the toilet right next to your seat, and your seat is directly below your sleeping quarters. I hope they had Febreze back in the day, although you were probably relegated to waving about an apple stuck full of cloves to “freshen” up the compartment.

The private car had a kitchen. It also had a disturbing-looking chef mannequin standing in the kitchen. Had they given him a knife, I would have thought that I was in some sort of museum-based horror B movie.

They had a few more train cars for us to go through. One was an old electric car, from the Dan Patch line (like the street with the cheese curd booth on it at the Great Minnesota Get-Together). According to Ed, electric trains were not that popular. He was a little sketchy on the details, though.

There was a pretty rad-looking engine called the “Hustle Muscle.” Once again, Ed was a little vague as to its history.

The final car that we experienced was a car that cattle drivers used to ride in while bringing their beasts to the slaughterhouse a la The Jungle.

Despite its distasteful purpose, the cars, both smoking and non, were pretty nice. The cattlemen themselves must have been somewhat distasteful, however, as there were signs posted warning against spitting and littering.

The kids these days use computers to track where trains are. Apparently you can even watch this via the internets.

It was pretty neat to see that there was a train in South Saint Paul (our fair city) when we were at the museum.

By this point, the boys were dying to get back to the toys. Ed was still holding out hope that we would go outside with him, but unfortunately, lunch was beckoning. The boys did get to see a real train drive by the museum before we left. Except for the big disappointment for Rex-Goliath upon our departure (he didn’t understand why we would leave such a cool place if given the choice), the trip was a success.

–Mrs. Wonderful


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