Have Twins, Will Travel

Mugar Omni Theater – Rocky Mountain Express


Cambridge, Massachusetts – Our newsletter from the Museum of Science came in the mail and this photo was on the front, advertising a movie about the Rocky Mountain Express at the IMAX theater on site. The twins caught a glimpse of the newsletter and immediately started asking questions about that train. They wanted to get in on it.

Regular readers will know that the twins are loco for locos. One of my secrets for successful travel with small children is to put them on any train that we can find. We rode the Hobo Railroad around Lake Winnepesauke and we had a Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine at Edaville, USA and we celebrated Christmas on the Monteverde Cloud Forest Train. Why not the Rocky Mountain Express?
Of course, a movie is not the real thing. And an IMAX movie is something different altogether. Would the twins be able to handle it?
I soon discovered that parents of train-crazy toddlers all over the Greater Boston area were wondering the same thing, as one mother posted a similar question on my local moms’ forum. Responses ranged from the mother who successfully took her 18-month-old to see Jane Goodall and the gorillas, to the teacher whose class of second-graders complained about the volume and the visual stimulation at the IMAX theater. “I even get dizzy watching some movies in there,” she wrote.
On this rainy Saturday, at the point at which the twins started bouncing off the walls, we decided to go for it. The twins had never been to a movie before, so I don’t know what they were expecting, but they were ecstatic. “I’m so excited!” Twin S said.
The film is the history of the construction of the Rocky Mountain Express, which was a pretty amazing engineering feat that took place at the turn of the 20th century. The spectacular mountain scenery makes it perfect for an IMAX film, with plenty of scenes where we felt like we were soaring over the snow-clad peaks and cruising through narrow mountain passes. At first Twin V was afraid, exclaiming “We’re gonna crash!” Then he was wary, wondering “Are we gonna crash?” And finally, after a half-dozen near-misses, he was confident enough to say “We’re not gonna crash!” Progress.
The twins loved the scenes that simulated riding the train, so it seemed like we were trundling over bridges, through tunnels and along mountain passes. This is when I remembered the teacher’s words of warning, as I was feeling motion sickness. But the twins were not bothered in the least.
One of the biggest dangers of building and riding the railway through the Canadian Rockies was the threat of avalanche. The twins have seen avalanches on Thomas the Tank Engine and (oddly enough) on Elmo’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Hootin’ Hollerin’ Country Jamboree, but this was like experiencing an avalanche first-hand − the undisputed highlight of the day for Twin S. There were actually three avalanches in the film, two of which simulated the actual experience of having thousands of tons of snow barreling down on you. Twin S loved it and talked about it for the rest of the day. This is the kid who was afraid to go on the carousel at Canobie Lake Park.
Full disclosure: when we were sitting in the dark theater, before the film started, Twin V was asking to go home. But once there were trains on the big screen − once he understood that we were not actually riding the train, even though it seemed like we were − he couldn’t get enough. Daddio and I were surprised and delighted, but we chalked this one up as a big success. Not every IMAX film is for every kid, of course. But if your kid is crazy about trains, he or she will be crazy about the Rocky Mountain Express.
In all the excitement today, we sort of promised to take the twins on the Rocky Mountain Express for real (someday). Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.