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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lisle, or maybe Wheaton: Always have a Plan B

Do you remember that old jingle, "Phone first ..."? That tune popped into my head as the kids hopped out of the car at The Museums at Lisle Station Park and shouted, "Mom, there's a sign that says it's closed." Hmm. You know, a note taped to a window that briskly says, "Sorry for the inconvenience" doesn't really appease a car-load of kids, especially the one who had his heart set on seeing the model railroad layout on the inside of  the farmhouse. So, I can't report much about what Lisle has to offer our young train fans other than the small museum campus has this to tease when the doors are locked: an 1881 caboose and a depot from 1875. (The other structures are a farmhouse, tavern/inn and a blacksmith shop.) Nice, but not quite enough to call the afternoon a success, so on to Plan B. 

We moved up the road a bit to another model railroad display, this one at the DuPage County Historical Museum in downtown Wheaton. The majority of the museum's basement is given to an HO-gauge layout with over 2,000 feet of track and numerous small-scale recreations of local landmarks. Again, we weren't there on quite the right day. Selected Saturdays throughout the year members of the DuPage Society of Model Engineers run the trains for visitors. Alas, we arrived on a Tuesday afternoon. Thankfully, one train can be activated to run independently by the push of a button and there are plenty of scenery details to study from the large viewing windows. There's also a kid-sized train play table and displays on the history of railroads in DuPage County.

A train zips through it's miniature Wheaton landscape
Upstairs, exhibits detail local history, including a current exhibit on the Civil War. My kids liked the station allowing them to sniff the smells familiar to solders. (Conveniently, they had just been listening to the Magic Tree House book Civil War on Sunday on our ride to the museum. Can't beat audio books for keeping young travelers entertained!) Downtown Wheaton is a stop on the Union Pacific-West line, meaning it could be a destination on a Metra ride if you plan ahead. If not, enough Metra and UP trains zip through to give kids a look at the big engines they've just seen in miniature.

Getting back to Lisle, assuming the museums are open as scheduled on another summer afternoon, could also happen via Metra on the BNSF line. Or the family van, which is always more likely. Lesson of the day: when traveling with kids, always have a back up plan and plenty of in-car amusements!

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