Saturday, March 7, 2009

On trains ...

I'm an '80s child. I remember slap bracelets and big bangs and perms and bright purple stirrup pants. My first Barbie was an aerobics instructor with legwarmers and a matching sweatband around her head. Playground talk centered around four mutant turtles and I could sing the Duck Tales theme song at the age of four.

Then I turned five and the decade turned, too. A little brother came along a solid product of the '90s. He watched Barney and Power Rangers. He rode a Razor scooter to school and idolized Kobe Bryant. Meanwhile, I was taking down a bully at school with one solid hit of my Trapper Keeper to his head.

Another brother came along six years later with TeleTubbies and Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues.

Three decades of children saw shows come and go and new marketing strategies and cheap plastic toys enticing them to buy a McDonald's Kids Meal. All of them, however, remember this character:

I talked to train fanatics this morning. Men in their 70's who have been playing with trains since they could put two and two together and haven't stopped since. Their great-grandchildren's eyes light up with delight watching a train move under a tunnel or see the shops of Ogden go whizzing by. All of them know about Thomas.

There are Lego trains, model trains, trains for gardens and trains for Christmas trees. There are trains with elaborate scenery and trains to ride in. Young and old alike are feeling the magic of something many the older generation are afraid is disappearing. You can't buy an Amtrak ticket without going through a travel agency. If you want to go by train from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, be prepared to be detoured through San Francisco. Cross-country train travel is a novelty, not a normalcy.

I'm not worried. Trains may be disappearing but their magic and history is only getting brighter. Too many toddlers screamed with delight when they saw a blue-painted engine and too many older kids sat piecing sets together. Ogden became the junction of the world's most mobile nation in 1869. If the model train festival at the same historic site 140 years later is any indication, nobody's forgotten. Thanks, Thomas.


Natalie said...


I think you can buy an AMTRAK ticket right at the station in San Diego downtown. It stops right there. I didn't know how spoiled I was. I know public transit is disappearing despite people wanting it. It's sad.

Sierra said...

My niece still LOVES Thomas! She loves da "choo choo." But it's true, kids don't get fun things like we used to (like slap bracelets) ha ha

M said...

My little boy is obsessed with Thomas.
Trains are very much alive (and a part of life) where I am. My husband takes the metro every day. I cannot imagine life here without that train system.