b Papa Dog's Blog: Choo Choo

Papa Dog's Blog

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Choo Choo

When ducks were the thing, we showed Baby Dog a bird sanctuary. When pigs and cows ruled, we took her to The Little Farm. Now the obsession is trains, thanks to the oeuvre of Donald Crews (Freight Train and its sequel, Inside Freight Train), and The Little Engine That Could as interpreted by Watty Piper. She also is quite familiar with Burl Ives’ take on that same story, which is on Baby Dog’s Napster play list. Thanks to the Crews books, she knows more about trains than either of her parents do. The bar’s not really very high there, but still. She can correctly distinguish by silhouette the shape of a hopper car vs. a tank car, and knows that the tender carries the coal that powers the engine. She knows what a trestle is. She knows that the sounds “choo choo,” “puff puff,” “toot toot” and “ding dong” are all involved with such enterprises, and judicious use of these sounds can even be used to entice her to eat her broccoli. All that being the case, we’ve felt we were long overdue for a ride on Tilden Park’s steam train, and today we finally went.

The Tilden Park trains are wonderfully authentic scale models of genuine steam engines. Baby Dog was immediately thrilled to hear the “ooooo-oooooooo” sound of the steam whistle as we pulled into the parking lot. I oooooed along with it, making her grin hugely. We arrived just as the train was pulling into the depot. It only takes fifteen minutes for the train to make its circuit, but still we hurried to buy tickets so as not to wait for the next run. Mama Dog, Baby Dog and I all bundled into one car. They’re flat little open-air things, kind of like the carts you see in old movies set in coal mines. I asked Baby Dog if she knew where the tracks were, and she pointed to the adjacent set. All the way through our trip through the park we were able to point out things she had seen in her books: trestles, tunnels, water towers, and of course the steam engine itself. Every time it oooooed, she would beam and laugh. Going through the tunnel seemed to be a bit worrisome to her, but the passage was brief and she didn’t seem to mind it as much the second time.

I’m sure this is an outing she’ll be talking about for some time to come. And we bought six tickets, so I imagine we’ll be going back again.


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