For me trains and railroads have a special “nostalgic” value at this time of the year. I’m clearly not that unusual because The Polar Express, Christmas trains around a tree, and Thomas the Tank Engine bring memories and a sense of tradition to many people. Besides the memories trains bring do you know they have an important educational value? Teaching your child about railroads is one of the important things you can do as a parent. We say that because so far in 2011 (Jan. to Sept.) there have been 8,192 railroad related accidents in the United States. According to these statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis, 539 fatalities resulted from these accidents. These statistics show that about every two hours a railroad accident occurs in which a pedestrian or vehicle is struck by a train.
One of the leading causes of train accidents is trespassing or playing on railroad tracks by children and teens. Often they don’t realize the potential danger presented by being close to train tracks and walking on railroad beds. It is amazing how “quiet” a train can be if it is approaching you from behind at 50+ miles per hour! As with guns, one of the best ways to introduce and teach your child to respect trains and understand the danger is too see, touch, and interact with a train. WNY provides some unique opportunities for this introduction in family friendly adventures. In December both the Medina and the Arcade and Attica Railroad offer great events that combine education with the holiday spirit!
The Medina Railroad Museum is located in the old New York Central freight depot in Medina, NY. Built in 1905 along the Erie Canal the museum is the largest and one of the last surviving wooden freight depots in the USA. The Museum features a one hour ‘Polar Express‘ ride this time of the year. For information call 585.798.6106
The Arcade and Attica Railroad located at 278 Main St. Arcade, NY has a World War II era diesel train that transports Santa, elves and lucky passengers through the snowy countryside for a memorable two hour ride. Reservations (585.492.3100) are required for this limited opportunity that runs on Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18th at noon and 3 p.m.
Another great way to teach your child about trains and railroading is to get a traditional electric train for your Christmas tree or holiday display. Lionel is still manufacturing their trains in the USA and under the leadership of rock musician and train enthusiast Neil Young the company has been able to produce the most beautiful and authentic trains available. For toddlers, one of the most popular toys over the last 15 years has been the wooden Thomas the Tank Engine products. My daughter has had a set since she was two years old and will still pull out her track and trains and play with them for hours in the living room almost as much as she grabs her Barbies. One can spend a small fortune on these, but because these trains (both Lionel and Thomas) are so well built it is possible to find some great 2nd hand deals on the trains and tracks at garage sales and on eBay.
There are many vendors for trains but one we’ll note here is the Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart because it has an authentic red railroad caboose you can go through and on weekends Santa, elves and reindeer are there to enjoy free of charge. Inside the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful on the variety of trains available and will help you make the best choice for your situation.
What are some of your favorite train-related activities?