Chuff, Chuff, Chuff – and off we go!

When I was little, the museum of science and technology was impossibly far away. It was on the other side of the city – so trips there were far more rare than ones to closer museums. Still, I remember the old cars, the big noisy locomotives, and the tilted kitchen. Which sounds really odd to those who’ve never been there, but trust me, it’s even odder than it sounds. But that’s not what I want to write about – not right now.

The trains. The locomotives were e-normous. Huge. And they were loud. Pretty scary too, as like Cameron is now, I was wary (okay, terrified) of anything that made loud noises. But they sure made an impression. So naturally, I enjoy getting Cameron there to see them. He enjoys it too – and chatters on about the trains inside the building, if you give him an opening. Each time we visit, he learns a little more, and figures out a little more.

But there’s only so much you can figure out about something, only so far that your understanding can go, if all you see is a stationary version of the real thing, even with canned sound effects and a grandfather who loves to teach, and who is excited about trains.

This trip, we lucked out, bigtime.

Outside, where Cameron’s usually gaping at the lighthouse, rocket, and other large exhibits, there puffed and churned a steam locomotive with a caboose and a passenger car. As in, really puffed. Real steam.  As we watched, the bell started to ring, and out it pulled. Slowly, the train chuffed past us, kids waving in the windows.

We timed it just right. A few summer camps were getting their last rides before lunch, and so there was a lull. To get where we wanted to sit, right up in the cupola (it’s okay if you don’t know what that is, I didn’t either until this trip. It’s the upstairs part of the caboose) we waited through one ride, as did another family. Lucky us, as it sounded like this was the coveted perch. Finally, the train returned, and unloaded, and it was our turn.

Cameron had no troubles getting up to the seats, climbing up the ladder. Dad and I climbed up after him, and my excited little guy bounced around, looking at everything. Lots of windows up there, and we could see all around – best of all, we could see down onto the top of the engine! Er. Sorry, Dad. Locomotive? That big noisy thing that does the pulling.

The ride was short, but well worth it. Slowly, we passed train cars waiting to be refurbished, I assume, and one that had been made into a workshop. There was a snow plow car, and another that had a shovel on it, like an excavator. Near the end of the line there were several undercarriages of train cars, showing the wheels and heavy springs, all rusted.

And then we got to see it all in reverse, as we backed up to return to the station.

When it was all done, Cameron was eager to get back into the museum proper to explore, but I wanted pictures of the locomotive. To my amazement, the engineer waved at us, and called over, asking if Cameron would like to come up INSIDE for a picture!

No, you won’t see a picture of Cameron happily seated in a locomotive. Not yet, at least. He’s a kid who takes a little while to get used to ideas like that – inside there? With all the steam and noise? And I know him, he would be worried that the train would leave, with him in it, and me on the ground. So he backed away quickly. That’s okay. Another time, perhaps.

Then it was off to explore inside, where he was quite willing to go into the not-gonna-move ones. Not to stay for long (the noise clearly bothered him), but at least those he would go into. Now that he’d seen a real steam locomotive in action, and had seen the giant piston pushing those great big wheels, and had seen the puffs of steam that drove the engine, it seemed to make more sense to Cameron, and here he could get right up close and touch.

Sure wish we could do the same for a space shuttle!

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