Monday, July 25, 2005


Tristan's Day Out With Thomas

Tristan had no idea what we were up to. We had parked a ways from the train museum in St Thomas, and told him that we were going to see some trains.
We rounded the corner, and we could see the trains off in the distance, across a little park. We started hiking that way, a motley group of six adults and four boys ranging in age from 8 months to 5 1/2 years. Tristan, having no idea about the fact that he was about to meet Thomas the Tank engine face to face, was excited just to be near the train and couldn't wait to get closer.
We adults could see the trains in the distance a little bit better, and when one of them started to move, we could see Thomas being pulled at the very end of it. At first, Tristan didn't understand what he was looking, but this was his expression when Beloved pointed Thomas out to him.

It took Tristan a minute to process what he was seeing, and then he took off at a run after Thomas, leaving us howling with laughter.

After a minute, we realized that Tristan didn't know what we had planned for the morning, and only knew that he had just brushed "this close" to his idol, only to have Thomas chug off into the distance without him, leaving Tristan staring forlornly after the retreating train, so we quickly explained the plans for the rest of the day.

They had a lot of booths and tables set up inside the museum. Everything from temporary tatoos (we all got one, except for Beloved - and Tristan and Simon both are fascinated by the Thomas tatoo on my bicep, even though they each have one of their own) to colouring tables and crafts, to (of course) train tables.

There were scads of people there, but it was so well run that it never felt uncomfortably crowded. After we played for a while, it was time for us to take our ride on Thomas. Before we got on the train, Tristan had a chance to get a good look at Thomas.

My sister-in-law had called me the week before our trip and told me that she got a good deal on a conductor's hat for my 8 month old nephew, so I sent my mother off in search of matching ones for my boys. All she could find were the expensive name-brand ones, which I at first balked at, but she said she wanted a nice picture of her three grandsons together with their conductor's hats. This is about as close as we came to success with that photo op.

The train ride itself was short and sweet. We traveled maybe 10 kilometers, over a spectacular high trestle that I've driven under many a time, but never had the chance to ride over (if you know St Thomas, you know the one I mean.) It was just long enough to satisfy the boys without making them too antsy. The passenger coaches were beautiful old Pullman cars. The one we were riding in was built in 1919.

After the train ride, you could stand on a little platform and have your picture taken with Thomas, but the queues were (not surprisingly) huge and I had just spent the entire train ride with Simon jostling against my bladder, which although sweetly reminiscent of my pregnancy days, was in the end rather unpleasant, so I was more interested in finding the bathroom than standing in another queue.

After we examined the gift shop and other displays, I happened to look out and see the queue had dwindled to almost nothing for the Thomas pictures, so I hurried back inside to round up my gang for a photo. I got them onto the pedestal just as the conductor started calling the all-clear for the train to pull out of the station, and

managed to get these well-composed pictures of my professional models as the train pulled away.

Luckily, the paid photographer's timing was much better than mine, and he caught a really cute pose that I happily handed over my Visa card in order to aquire in 5x7 glossy format - and a keychain, too. I'll scan them in later, I promise!

As morning stretched into early afternoon, we bid our farewells to Thomas. We loaded the boys into the car, had a hectic lunch at Wendy's with every 3 through 5 year old in southerin Ontario running rampant through the dining room, and spent a blissfully peaceful two hours driving in gentle loops of the backcountry highways on the north shore of Lake Erie.

My only regret about the whole weekend is that we had hoped to bring the boys to Storybook Gardens in London on Sunday, but it was pouring rain when we left Port Stanley. That, and the pollution levels were too high to allow us to play in the water on the beach. The whole adventure was a wonderful success, and I'll just gloss over the details of the accompanying cottage adventure with my brother and sister-in-law in Port Stanley and the trip the next day to the Railway and Streetcar Museum (where we rode an authentic 1893 TTC streetcar, and two other retired streetcars) and our stop on the way home at the Big Apple off the 401.

I'm jealous of those of you who can do this regularly! This seems to have been only the second time Thomas has come to Canada, and the volunteers were telling us it was an event three years in the making. I'd do it again in an instant!