Down by the station early in the morning
See the little pufferbillies all in a row
See the engine driver pull his little lever
Puff, puff! Chuff, chuff! Toot, toot!
Off we go!
There’s something about trains and tots.
They listen to Thomas and Percy, Gordon and Henry, Duck and Toby, Ashima and Emily. Do you have twins? Do they like Donald and Douglas? Do they do playful tricks, like Bill and Ben?
When I play trains with my son, I am transported back to days of innocence.
Most days, I feel like Edward, huffing and puffing with life’s load and feeling my age.
Somehow, with my son, I become energetic, free-spirited Rosie to his cheerful and adventurous Percy.
Ever nursed a sick child? It’s hard, but can be among the most tender of parent-child experiences.
You want the little one to feel better, to distract them from what ails them.
Want a popsicle? A cool drink? Your lovie teddy?
So the story goes that in 1942 a boy named Christopher caught measles. He was 2 years old.
Christopher’s father was the Reverend Wilbert Awdry. The Reverend, accounts of whom indicate was a caring father, brought cheer to his ill son by telling him tales of steam engines. Those stories became the first stories of the Railway Series.
Christmas of 1942, Reverend Awdry made his son a small wooden model engine.
He was called Thomas.
Do you have a child thirsty for stories, whose questions are endless?
“Daddy, tell me more.” “What happens next?” “Does he have friends?”
Christopher must have been that child for the Reverend, who made up stories of steam engines, especially Thomas. For consistency, the stories were written down. Rev. Awdry’s wife, Margaret, who was a teacher, suggested for the stories to get published. In 1945, The Three Railway Engines came out of publication.
When Tramway Engines, the last of The Railway Series that Rev. Awdry wrote was published in 1972, there were 26 books in the series.
From 1983 to 2011, Christopher Awdry, grown up and with a son of his own, gave us more stories about the engines from the Island of Sodor, including Really Useful Engines.
Thomas Comes A Long Way
The reality is…steamies are no longer in vogue. They have been replaced by faster engines, more efficient and environmentally friendly transport.
Yet Thomas and his friends are still really hard at work.
Thomas is on my son’s shirt, the bowl he used for his breakfast cereal, his lunch plate, his glass. Percy is on his pre-school backpack. When we travel, Thomas beams from his carry-on luggage. Gordon invited friends to his fourth birthday.
We have a collection of Thomas books for pre-schoolers gifted by family and friends over 3 birthdays and Christmases.
Train tracks…they go from our little house in Washington to fascinating islands and cities that he and his sister concoct from their imagination.
Thomas and his Friends have their way of getting into the hearts of children and those who are children at heart.
They cue us to fun days -whether past, present or future- and bring us to special places.
Thomas was how our family discovered Snoqualmie.
On a Day Out With Thomas, he and his sister had a great time riding a passenger car pulled and pushed by Thomas. There were toys, games, songs, stories and lots of coloring sheets. It’s a clever event for the age 2-5 set and their doting parents and grandparents.
“Thomas is a star!” I quote this comment from another parent whose son like mine is engrossed with trains. Although I now feel guarded about Thomas merchandise, I remain grateful that the Thomas stories helped my son to early literacy. Playing with trains helped develop his fine motor coordination and spatial skills.
Thomas also led us to Snoqualmie.
The city of Snoqualmie is 25 miles east of Seattle. It’s an easy day trip from Seattle.
Snoqualmie comes from the Native American Salish word for moon. The Native Americans who lived here were known as the People of the Moon.
Logging operations were first carried out from here by floating logs over the falls then to the river to Puget Sound. The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway was founded in the 1880s and hauled timber from the Snoqualmie Valley to a bigger world market.
When you have a railway, you need a depot. The Snoqualmie Depot was built in 1890. In 1901, the depot became part of the Northern Pacific Railway.
This beautiful and carefully restored Victorian building is now part of the Northwest Railway Museum and the oldest continuously operating train depot in Washington. Thomas makes stops and picks passengers here.
Step in the Depot and into the history of the Pacific Northwest and the railway system.
There is no fee to check out the artifacts inside the Depot and at its grounds.
Check out the Freight Room and browse through train and railway books at the Depot Bookstore while waiting for the train.
Board into history: among the coaches in service are those that once belonged to The Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. No. 218 is a 1912 passenger coach; the red seats show wear but the wood and window details bring the nostalgia of a prior age.
The Train Shed Exhibit is the place for the family train enthusiast. On exhibit are interesting locomotives and train cars, including the restored Messenger of Peace, the chapel car of the American Baptist Publication Society that brought the “Good Word” to the American frontier in the 19th century.
Take a hike; it’s a doable half mile with kids to the lower falls.
Have a picnic.