This Saturday we surprised the kiddos with a little family field-trip to the Illinois Railway Museum...something we've been wanting to do for awhile! Chris & I have both been getting quite a laugh out of Little Monkey lately, who has become quite the train-buff thanks to Thomas the Tank Engine. Every time we are driving and have to stop at a railroad crossing for a train to pass, he gets all excited...until the engine comes into view and then he says in the most disappointed voice you can imagine - "Ugghhh...it's just a diesel!" There is no explaining to this three-year-old how or why there are no steam-engines anymore!
So when we heard that this museum has a real, running steam engine, we were really excited to bring the kiddos for a visit! And we were not disappointed - this place had something to interest everyone, kids of ALL ages (even the really big ones, like Chris and myself ;)
It was a great day for an outdoor trip, too...the weather was so beautiful! The museum is set right in the middle of nothing-but-cornfields; and is itself a lovely, sprawling park. There were quite a few visitors that day, since it was the last day of the year that the steam engine (and many other special engines) would be running. There were so many families (with lots of wide-eyed children!)...and photographers... and knowledgeable old-timers whose conversations would give us tidbits of railway facts and history as we passed each other. All of this mixed in with a constant chorus of loud toots and whistles from the engines... and the chuffing and the whoosh of the steam...the bells and startling horns of the trolleys and streetcars. And yet it was still a very peaceful and relaxing place to spend an afternoon.
~ And here it is : "Leviathan" the Steam Engine (the kids called it Levi for short :) ~
See the steam by the front wheels? It was unbelievably loud! And quite amazing to watch!
We were so surprised at how beautiful this engine is, all polished and shiny in the bright sun (never thought I'd ever use that word to describe a machine, but there it is!). And it is BIG.
My children were pretty impressed, too!
At first I thought we would just go for a short ride around the train-yard...but it actually lasted for a good half-hour, probably much more. I don't really know - I forgot all about time! We drove through the countryside, past quaint farmhouses and lazy streams...through fields and fields of golden sunflowers...the coach's windows were wide open and we shared our seat with the sweet, warm end-of-summer breeze. At every crossing we listened to the harmonic tweet of the whistle and the rhythm of the wheels, while my children waved with wonder at all of the people waiting with their cameras for the train to drive past.
Poor Little Monkey just about rubbed his nose raw...the fumes from the steam and the smoke were stinging all of our noses a bit!
This was the view from our seat - the back of the engine. We could see (and smell!) all the steam and black smoke coming out of the smokestack.
We forgot to pack the stroller that morning...and with so much walking to do, we finally gave in to Peanut's squirming and wiggling (I'm sure I wouldn't want to be carried around all day in such a fun place, either!) and we let him get down to walk on his own. To our surprise, he wouldn't hold anyone's hand except Little Monkey's...
...to which LM said - "Wook! He wuvs me!" And just about melted this mama's heart...
Before we knew it, it was dinnertime and time to go...we spent six hours there, though it only felt like a few. We drove home with the windows rolled down in a very quiet car...Peanut was asleep before we even turned onto the main road...General and Little Monkey were happy to rest their feet a bit...and Rose had a new interest in reading her current Boxcar Children book. A day Chris & I will treasure!