Carver, Massachusetts – Twin S and Twin V are loco for locos. They are on a first-name basis with Thomas the Tank Engine and all of his friends – and let me tell you, Thomas has a lot of friends. Not only do S&V know all the trains by name, they also know what kind of engines they are (steam engine vs diesel, etc), what kind of cars they pull (passenger cars, coal cars, etc) and what funny expression they might say (“Bust my Bumpers!”).
S & V have had a handful of first-hand train adventures (some more successful than others), and they are regular riders on the T, which is always a little treat. But I think they experienced the thrill of their young lives yesterday, when we went to Edaville USA for A Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine.
Even without Thomas, Edaville would have been a fun outing for all of us. It is a small, old-fashioned theme park with a handful of kiddie rides including an antique carousel and an awesome illuminated ferris wheel. The playground has a big metal slide that is at least 50 years old. (You don’t realize how much slides have changed.) A vintage fire engine is out and available for climbing, as is a monster black steam locomotive. It’s fun for toddlers – pretty tame for older kids.
The highlight of Edaville is the narrow-gauge railroad that circles the property, traversing the cranberry bogs and swampland the surrounds the park. The two-foot gauge rails came from Maine, where they were used to transport timber and other products starting in the 1870s. At the peak of the Maine Narrow Gauge, there were five railroads that covered more than 200 miles.
With the rise of automobiles, the railway was discontinued and eventually dismantled (although there are still tourist trains that run along the scenic routes in Maine). In the 1940s, Ellis D Atwood (EDA – get it?) purchased a bunch of the rails and reconstructed a 5-mile route around his cranberry plantation. He used the railway to plant and harvest the cranberry bogs, but he also offered rides to visitors who wanted to see the crimson-colored landscape in fall. Eventually, it evolved into the “family fun park” it is today.
Nowadays, the park is only open for special events such as the autumn Cranberry Festival and the wintertime Festival of Lights. And twice a year, the place welcomes the one and only Thomas the Tank Engine to pull passengers on the narrow-gauge rail.
It was not until we actually approached the train that S & V understood the enormity of what was happening. We had told them ahead of time, but how could they comprehend that they were going to see the real Thomas the Tank Engine in person? They were starstruck.
During the 20-minute train ride, they were both so serious – just staring out the window and totally focused on absorbing every detail. Afterwards, they rode some of the other kiddie rides and played in the playground, but everything came to a halt each time that train went by. Both boys would stop what they were doing and run to get a better look at Thomas chugging along the track, to hear his perky bell and see him pulling the passenger cars (Clarabelle and Annie, of course). Considering what happened the last time we took them on a tourist train (which is the subject for another post), this was a resounding success.
Full disclosure: Both boys fell asleep on the way home, as we expected they would. They slept for only 30 minutes, which did not bode well for the rest of the day. The ride home was twice as long as it should have been – because of course Boston rush hour starts at 2pm – and that’s going into the city. If you can explain that, I’ll give you a degree in urban planning.
S & V were excited about their adventure when we got home, but they became increasingly dysfunctional as the afternoon wore on. (My reprimands that they were causing “confusion and delay” didn’t seem to do any good.) Bedtime came early, but not early enough to avoid minor meltdowns by both boys.
But it was worth it. Someday I hope we can take them on the Trans-Siberian or the Rocky Mountaineer, but for now the Edaville Narrow Gauge was a great adventure.