Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Golden Spike National Historic Site, UT
This was a place I had always wanted to go and see, most especially with the SERIOUS railway enthusiast that is my first-born. He thought this was the coolest, and is already talking about going back with Dad.
We went on a Friday. I had tried to find as much information as I could on their web site, which was pretty informative. However, they gave no specific information about the engine demonstrations, because they can change without notice, so I was pretty clueless going out there. I did learn that one of their annual events, the Railroaders Festival happens every year on the second Saturday in August -- the day after our visit. But we had a birthday party to attend, so I didn't change our plans. And while we were there, I didn't ask about the festival because I didn't want to know (or have anyone hear...) what we were missing out on. :o)
The drive is every bit of 30 miles west of Brigham City. We are talking in the middle of nowhere, people. It's good that I enjoy road trips; it was kinda fun to watch the landscape unfold, looking for any sort of a facility in site. I had to laugh when we finally saw the engines from a distance and Zach in his giddy voice was saying, "I'm going to stop feeling so excited!!" This is the view he was talking about:
We arrived at 11:30 and I had packed picnic lunch so we went in to look at the offerings. I paid my seven dollars and glanced at the schedule they had written in chalk behind the counter. One of the trains arrives (from where, I have no idea!) at 10:00, the other at 10:30, so my heart sank thinking we had missed that and wouldn't be able to see them move at all. At 12:00 they had a "steam demonstration" so we hurried and watched the 20 minute video, then got our lunches to sit out at the benches where the locomotives were. Um, zero shade. But thankfully a comfortable amount of wind so the sun didn't feel too hot. They had picnic tables in other spots and there may have been some trees there.
The replicas they have made really are impressive. You can get up close to them but no touchy. First they demonstrated the 119. Zach was sitting next to me and Ben was standing in front of us when they blew the whistle before it started moving. I myself probably jumped a couple of inches, it will be funny to watch the video I was trying to make. Poor Ben about fell over. After that, Zach was nervously playing with my hair and covering his ears for much of the time. They also demonstrated the Jupiter by backing it up a couple hundred yards and then bringing it back. Nothing fancy, but it was fun to sit and enjoy our lunch while we watched. When the engines are parked, they have stairs and a platform on one side of them so you can get a good look into the cabs. The engineers are there to answer questions and we learned some new things. The 119's sandbox has a picture of Johnny Appleseed painted on one side and Daniel Boone on the other. I also didn't know that one of the trains used coal and the other wood for fuel, because of what was most available from their respective side of the country.
Oh yes, we also got to ride on this speeder. I thought it was such a treat, and it made the coolest old-fashioned putting sound. The driver told me that it is run with an engine that actually has to be turned off, and then restarted to turn the other way to return us. (No reverse gear) I'm sure that, had Peter been there, he would have caught the term for such an engine!
The remainder of our time was spent in the gift shop, where Zach decided whether or not he wanted to spend his money on things or not. He had about $11 and thought about the small wooden trains they had. What he really wanted were the HO scale Bachmann model trains, each were $75. In the bathroom before we left he was trying so hard not to cry about it. I really was so proud of him because I think he is getting a sense of how it is hard to save for the things we want most -- though I wish he had much smaller goals. He just knows the model trains are the most fun for him to watch and as close to the real thing as you get.
All told, it was a worthwhile day. I thought we would do the Big Fill, which is a 1.5 mile walking trail to see unfinished trestles, I think. They had a display of the trestle with model trains that was interesting enough for Zach. I was told the path was do-able with a stroller, but it was best that we passed, because the kids were so tired and it was a sunny day. (No shade there, either)
I hope that this visit gave Zach a better appreciation for the history behind these trains. He kept asking, 'but mom, why are they just parked there?' I tried to explain that it is simply so people can come learn about this important event that happened a very long time ago. I think the timing with this outing was good too, because we had just happened to recently have borrowed Peanuts Building of the Transcontinental Railroad video from the library. Other fun related books are Coolies and Iron Horses.