Playgrounds, museums and festivals offer a variety of options for locomotive lovers.
By Laura Jean Whitcomb
There’s lots of things for kids to like about trains. They have wheels. They move. They have sound. They are powerful. They are fascinating to watch. If kids are able to sit on a train, there’s much more to like: hidden compartments and big windows. They can climb, explore, imagine and travel. Perhaps, for children on the autism spectrum, there’s comfort in order: a line of trains, one after another, all in a row.
Add in mechanics (wheels, tracks, pistons, axles) and engineering (steam, coal, diesel, bullet) and history (models, types, uses), and you’ve got an educational activity the whole family can enjoy. Here are a few places to see trains in New Hampshire and Vermont.
On Route 103, near the information booth, there’s the Bell Cove Historic Caboose Museum. Even if it isn’t open, kids can climb all over the refurbished B&M train car and peek in the windows.
If one train isn’t enough, head on down to the Velie Memorial Playground located next to the Newbury Public Library (also on Route 103). The playground equipment, designed to reflect the lakes and mountains of Newbury, includes a plastic train.
Driving on Route 11 from Andover to Tilton, you will pass a train station on the right. The historic freight station, built in the late 1800s, has been restored into a function hall. Beyond the building, there are two rows of antique rail cars and cabooses. You can’t climb on them, but they are fun to look at.
The trains mark a section of the Winnipesaukee River Trail, which winds its way through Franklin, Tilton and Northfield. If you continue on the trail, you will see mill ruins, remaining portions of dams, an old railroad trestle and the Sulphite Railroad Bridge (an upside down railroad bridge on the National Register of Historic Sites).
At one time, Andover was home to five train stations serving local passengers and tourists as well as carrying goods from local businesses. The Andover Historical Society has preserved one of those five: the Potter Place Railroad Station. There’s a stationmaster’s office and a red Northern Railroad Caboose. Down the road a bit, you’ll see a freight shed, given to the society in 2003 by the R.P. Johnson family, and a blue B&M freight car that was moved to the site in 2008. On days when the society is open (Saturdays and Sundays, mid-May to mid-October) or during special events, children can go inside the red caboose to see what travel was like “back in the day.”
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT.
Want to see working trains? Head to the Amtrak station in White River Junction. You can check the online schedule to find out when a train will be pulling into the station, and park nearby so kids can see the flashing train signs, hear the wheels clacking on the ties, and wave to the passengers. Green Mountain Railroad offers a few special events like Kids Day with train rides and the Glory Days Festival provides hourly excursions up and down the Connecticut River.
Laura Jean Whitcomb lives in Grantham, N.H., with her husband and two children.