A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.


By David DeWitt

I was hoping to hide my vintage Lionel train set from Finn until he got past his search and destroy phase with toys.  Well, perhaps search and dissect is a more appropriate term.  He really likes taking things apart and putting them back together.  Unfortunately most of those things never make it “back together” again.

He received that bit of DNA from me, I’m afraid. I can still clearly see the shock on my Mother’s face when once I performed a little exploratory surgery on our telephone.

So knowing I’ve passed on that trait, I haven’t been keen on sharing my treasured childhood toy with him.

Until now he hasn’t shown a great deal of interest in it.  Probably because I’ve downplayed it whenever he asked about it.

“Oh…that,” I would say, “I’m not even sure if it works anymore,” which was partly true.

He received another train set as a Christmas gift this past year. It was geared more toward his age group and he has loved playing with it.

But for some reason this month he had a sudden intense curiosity for “that train set under the bed wrapped in brown paper.”

He got up one morning and announced it was a train day.  He put together an engineer’s outfit which really looked more like a pirate. Then he started putting together the train set that he received for Christmas.

“Ok we’re good” I thought. Then as soon as he had assembled it he said:

“Now we just need that OTHER train set right here next to it.”

“What other train set?” I asked, acting dumb.

He narrowed his eyes. “Mommy already told me I could” he said.

I turned to Erin with a mock look of having been betrayed.

“Oh, I thought it was ok,” she said innocently.

“Well it probably won’t work anyway,” I resigned.

“Why? How old is it?” Finn asked.

I had to think a moment. It’s over 40 years old and I don’t remember the last time I ran it.

I brought down the box, dusted it off and unwrapped the brown paper. It’s not in mint condition for sure. It was well played with in its day, and I cut holes in the box so it could double as a tunnel. But most of the cars were still in good condition.

He wanted to do it himself so I only helped with the attaching of the control switch and a little track adjustment.

Finally the moment of truth came and we flipped the switch.

It started right up—making its way around the track with just the slightest wobble on the curves almost as smoothly as it did 40 years ago.

Finn and I both were a little shocked.

I really could not believe it.

I immediately launched into my “they-don’t-make-‘em-like-they-use-to” rant while Erin smiled and nodded in a “you boys and your trains” kind of way.

Finn ignored me completely, his attention fixed on the train.

After watching it for a while I said: “Now, Finn, this engine and the train cars are not things that you can take apart, OK?”

After a pause he said, “Why would I want to?”

So far so good.