Kate, Chris, and Konnor live close to the Amtrak train line. There’s a station just a few miles from their home and throughout the day and night you can hear the whistle in the distance. Some days it seems very loud and almost intrusive, but most times it’s just in the background.
To a toddler, the train whistle can apparently cause some angst. I have always lived near train tracks and so the sound of a train whistle or the rumble of the cars travelling by brings comfort. Not to Konnor. That distant whistle can cause fear to creep into his little body and on several occasions he’s jumped into my arms for comfort.
To help ease some of the fear, I’ve begun treating the train whistle in the same way I treat thunder: “It’s just a noise,” I say. “It can’t hurt you.” This gentle reminder given at the appropriate time seems to help.
Because Monday was Presidents’ Day, our Mimi and Me class was cancelled so I decided to take Konnor to the train station. The hope was that a great train experience might alleviate some of the fear.
As we pulled up to the station, a passenger train was in final boarding mode. We got to see the luggage being loaded, learned about the conductor helping people board with his ever present stool, and in the distance saw cars driving over one of the many crossings in the area. It was a great opportunity to teach Konnor the importance of the whistles. And sure enough, a few minutes later, with a long “tooooot” the train began to move out of the station.
Konnor could see the passengers through the darkened windows and waved his goodbyes.
We continued to hang around and within a few minutes a big rumble began as a freight train started pulling into the station. Konnor could see the engineer up front so he waved and waved, and was finally rewarded with an enthusiastic wave back when the engineer moved from the opposite side of the engine and leaned out to wave to the little guy.
As the train sat there, a friendly station agent explained the various cars we saw: open top ones for gravel; tankers for orange juice, milk, or fuel; even a special one that carried cars across country. We didn’t see any with animals but she explained that when the circus comes to town you see lots of specially designed cars carrying them.
Pretty soon the freight train took off and so did we. In anticipation of our train station visit, I had bought a wooden train whistle for Konnor that he had been playing with since the night before. My hope is that the whistle will serve as a reminder of our great experience and that ultimately some of Konnor’s fears will be alleviated. We’ll see…
We hope to follow-up soon with a roundtrip train ride to Kissimmee. As a youngster I spent a lot of time riding the rails to visit friends, to go shopping in one of the nearby towns, and to see my grandparents. It was always a fun experience and I took many peaceful naps on board, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking and clickity clack of the wheels on the tracks.