Historic Model Trains

It’s really a problem these days to encourage kids to be interested in the past.    If it doesn’t connect to the power grid and add to the monthly electrical cost, lots of boys and girls are just not that into it.  Multi-tasking seems to be the flavor of the day, so long as none of the tasks include anything remotely significant.  Even though they consider the past to be what happened last week, it’s still important to find ways to get them involved with it.  It’s not enough to know that there were some guys named Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Benjamin who now have their faces on our money.  If we’re going to remain a successful nation we really need to instill some of our vibrant traditions to them.  So how can we get around their resistance to learning about the dead bones of the past? Toy trains can put our youngsters on the track to becoming more culturally and historically literate.  Yes.  That’s right, period specific toy locomotives.  Here’s how to teach our traditions with model locomotives:

Incorporate our traditions into the toy locomotive set-ups that you create with your boys and girls:

Try to make your track plan time and place specific. Imagine a layout that is set during Reconstruction in the American Southwest.  You can feign ignorance and get your young people to “help” you figure out what would make for accurate scenic details to your setup.  Imagine stringing up a long row of telegraph poles next to your track to depict the communications system of the time.  A ghost town that failed to capitalize on the railroad because it didn’t get a stop might be shown tantalizingly close to the track.  Maybe even put in a representative robber baron surveying his train empire.

Spice up the tired old school project by swapping in a toy train setup instead:  

You might also manage to talk your child’s history teacher into allowing him to bring in a historic toy train track plan in place of the usual boring diorama.  A static diorama really can’t compete with the dynamic movement of a historic toy train layout. A picture of Jesse James is fine, but what if you incorporated model trains to bring the locomotive robber’s life details and cultural context to life.  As your period specific locomotive rounds the curve there are Jesse and his whole gang just waiting to attack and continue his wrong headed crusade.  It’s sure to be a hit!

Visit Historic train Locales:  

If you’re anywhere in the American West you are never far from historical train sites and museums where toy locomotives are often featured.  If your local historic train site doesn’t have model locomotives consider suggesting they find some to the curator or manager of the site.  In some places, model locomotive clubs often put on toy train events.. Just keep your ears pricked and you are sure to come across one sooner or later.

All of these things are sure to place your child on track to greater cultural literacy.  Even if you just do toy training without even considering the educational possibilities you will inevitably foster a greater sense of historical knowledge simply by handling these little mechanical doorways to the past.  

Here is more information on Model Steam Trains. Here is a website with a free mini-course dedicated to Model Trains.