Video 101: Along the line

Engaging kids in model trains (Hint: use Lego bricks)
We continually search for ways to encourage children to interact with the trains on Train Days at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (California).

While it’s wise to keep the kids and adults at a safe distance from the live steam exhibit, the museum’s large collection of Brio train parts, the ride-on train in the parking lot, the Diablo Valley’s kid-operated modular unit, and the hunt for Waldo on the club traveling layout reach out to kids in hands-on fashion.

Two more connections recently added with Lego-compatible equipment offer suggestions for making backyard garden railway gatherings even more kid friendly.

Lots of Lego
The popular Lego railroad rolling stock and villages are approximately G scale. We (volunteers dubbed the “train guys”) used a large collection of donated Lego buildings, models, track, and rolling stock to create a diorama in the station window. While we didn’t connect the Lego track to the continuous loop of stainless-steel mainline, Gary Raymond’s article (“Lego Trains for Large-scale Rails,” Summer 2019 issue) says the wheels and tracks can be adapted so that kits of engines and freight cars can run on gauge-1 track.

Outdoors, I added five LGB Lego-compatible flatcars to my dinosaur train, on which kids could create their own freight loads. The flatcars have Lego baseplate surfaces that can support either the small Lego bricks or larger Duplo blocks. Variety packs of Duplos provided young visitors with the raw materials to create their own imaginative freight loads. They placed their own cars on the powered train track circling on artificial turf under a shade tent. For our video of kids at work, I cropped the frame to show only the creations, but not the young creators. I recommend the same caution when making video for use on the Internet.

Hands-on learning
My wife and I have a saying that’s been family lore for many years: Hold it in your hand before you hold it in your head.

That was certainly true of my first ­Lionel trains, to which I added Erector set platforms, buildings, and tinplate towns. I needed to touch them. If you know anyone planning an open house, consider a kid-friendly area, a treasure hunt, or a Lego village to involve young people in a hobby that will last them a lifetime.


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