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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Batavia: Local Locomotive

BNSF engines on east Wilson Street in Batavia

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Crystal Lake: Pumpkin Train

It's Pumpkin Train season!
This one was hauling passengers around Crystal Lake's Johnny Appleseed Festival. 

Sept. 24, 2016 in downtown Crystal Lake

Monday, September 5, 2016

McHenry Station

Metra stop 
Worth the trip! 
 McHenry, IL  -- A lunchtime stop on the way to a state park took us to McHenry Station. Unfortunately, the building's Main Street Station restaurant was closed due to the Labor Day holiday. This wasn't a disappointment, though, because the up-close sight of two parked Metra engines delighted our railroad aficionados.

Love the old RR hardware on the
front door of Main Street Station

A dinner for another day
Lunchtime's Plan B took us to Windhill Pancake Parlor. Rumor has it they have trains, too, but we only got as far as enjoying the dining room's copious Americana decorations.

At the yummy Wind Hill Pancake Parlor:
We need this sign, too! 

No worries! Having a reason to return for further explorations is not a bad thing!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lombard: Yorktown Center Train

Ready to ride! 
 Lombard, IL -- With the big kids back in school, my preschooler and I took advantage of one of his last summer days to go on an excursion for just the two of us. I chose Yorktown Center as our destination since I had heard about the mall's train and knew it would be a hit. (Also, my older train lover may be just a bit above the 54 inch maximum passenger height.)

William and I arrived just as the mall opened, even before the Yorktown Express Train operator had arrived at the station. So we peeked at the tracks from above and browsed through a store or two first. Before long the train was ready for rides. One ride costs $2, payable to an automated kiosk that takes payment in exchange for ride tokens. (William wished that he would have been able to keep the golden coin: "They could scan the train quarter and I could keep it and ride on any train anywhere!") The train operator collected the token then let the sole passenger chose his car. For this first ride, he picked the middle car,  but later decided that on any future rides he would ride in the engine. The ride lasts several minutes, enough time to loop around an island of camping mannequins and woodland critters. By the time we left the shopping center an hour or two later several families were watching their young ones enjoy a ride.
View from the mall's second level

The Yorktown Express is just one of the fun features for young ones. At the mall's Center Court, a 2,000 square foot soft-surface play area offers ample opportunity to use those wiggly, growing muscles. During a snack or lunch break smaller folks are treated to kid-sized tables in the food court. Any "nature-calls" moments are made easier by the child-sized toilet options in the upstairs family restrooms, assuming kids can get past the cartoons on the TV in the lounge!

Until this visit, it had been at least 25 years since the last time I had been inside Yorktown Center. I'm impressed with it's brightness, cleanliness and attention to the needs of those bound to spend time in an indoor mall: families of the stroller set. The five-year old enjoyed it enough that he raved about everything to his big brother and sister and wants to bring them back for a train ride soon. I just hope they fit!

Find Yorktown Center at the northeast corner of Butterfield Road and Highland Avenue in Lombard. It is open from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. everyday except Sunday, when its open 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. The train is located near Marshalls/Homegoods on the main floor. Rides are free on "Toot-toot Tuesdays." 

This way to the Yorktown Express! 
Goodbye until next time! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Darien: Waterfall Glen

Darien -- The family spent Father's Day at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien this year. Despite near 90-degree temperatures, the comfortable humidity and ample shade kept our group hiking for a total of more than five miles. Our route stretched from roughly the guard residence at Cass Avenue and Bluff Road, along the Main Route west toward the Scenic Overlook and back again. The prize for this trek was a bit of train-spotting west of the power station and -- a slightly better view -- from the Scenic Overlook. Truth be told, the real highlight of the day was wading at the CCC waterfall in Rocky Glen, but the train tracks were icing on the cake! 

Can you see the trains rolling by way down the line? 
Watching a freight train from Waterfall Glen's scenic overlook on the main trail.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lisle: Morton Arboretum's Enchanted Railroad

Lisle -- Last January, our family trip to Morton Arboretum to see the Husky Heroes resulted in a disappointed boy. Seeing the sled dogs in action was fun, even without snow. Unfortunately, the same crowds that came to see the canines also  the Enchanted Railroad display. By the time we had seen the dog demonstration and returned to the visitor center for our railroad tickets, the room was too full to admit anyone else for the day. For the past year, I have been promising that we will go to the Arboretum on a less busy day and get in to see those trains. Thank you, frigid January temperatures! On a day that no one wanted to be outside, we had a wonderful time seeing this year's Enchanted Railroad with no crowds at all. 

The Enchanted Railroad display features the garden-scale trains of the LGB Model Railroad Club, as well as a specially made engine by "Sean Kenney, artist and creator of the popular Nature Connects exhibit of LEGO sculptures displayed at The Morton Arboretum earlier this year." The model trains wind their way through scenes inspired by the arboretum's features and upcoming events in all seasons. 

My preschooler appreciated the kid-level view of the display. Instead of needing a boost from mom or dad, little kids can see the lowest tier of trains at their own level. For those eager fingers who needed to be reminded not to touch the trains, several buttons do allow visitors to run Thomas's train, set off fireworks, and start the spooky sounds of a haunted house. 

The Enchanted Railroad is open through February 21 and is free with admission to the arboretum. Pick up timed tickets at the Visitor's Center. 

Here is a peek at some of the train cars you will see:

Waterfall with a drive-in movie in the background, starring you!
Lego train 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

St. Charles: Christmas Village and Train Display

St. Charles -- The Christmas Village and Train Display at St. Charles Free Methodist Church delighted my boys when we stopped by on the day after Christmas. A layout of more than 10 tracks and 100 houses (according to their website) gives visitors plenty to see. Familiar friends from the island of Sodor zip around one hillside, while the wintertime village is encircled by model railroad cars of mid-century vintage, both diesel and steam. Local landmarks such as Blue Goose Grocery and a Saints-North Stars football game appear as well. 
The Christmas-themed display remains up for guests of all ages on Saturday afternoons in January, 1 p.m. till 6 p.m. The church is located at 214 Walnut Street, St. Charles.