Thursday, October 1, 2009

Travel Town touts trains to tykes

Imagined to be a "railroad petting zoo" in the late 1940s by Recreation and Parks employee Charley Atkins, the Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park lives up to those original expectations and more.

After one thwarted attempt to see the "choo-choos," CC and I boarded the mommy train (OK, my car) to see what this place had to offer.

It was like stepping back in time. There were cabooses, dining cars, steam engines and even an incredibly vintage fire wagon, most looking as if they would tell you a million and one stories -- if only they could.

The place was magical for CC. She walked along tracks, brushed her fingers over railroad ties and tried to board the engines themselves. For safety's sake -- and similar to an aging relative -- visitors aren't allowed to climb on most of the trains.

After taking a stroll around the area, we boarded what for CC was the piece de resistance -- the miniature train!

The museum itself is free, but for $2.50 per person, visitors can ride a small train that twice circles the entire Travel Town grounds.

A grizzled-looking but friendly engineer takes the tickets, tells passengers we're headed to San Diego and toots the whistle as we chug around the little track.

CC couldn't get enough. We waved to families who were picnicking at little tables in the grassy park area. She peeked her head left and right to see more of the engines on display. There was even a wood-carving artist on site, creating a statue with a chainsaw.

Kids also can celebrate birthdays in one of the passenger train cars. (We'll have to add that to the list of possibilities.)

The museum was dedicated on Dec. 14, 1952, according to the Travel Town Web site, as the steam locomotive era was coming to a close and major California railroads were more willing to part with their iron horses.

So, thanks to Charley Atkins, the Recreation & Parks Dept. and the state's railroad facilities.

Without them, we'd be standing on the tracks with nowhere to go and not a locomotive in sight.

Travel Town Transportation Museum
5200 Zoo Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Operations: 323-662-5874

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