picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

Planes, trains and automobiles. But mostly trains.

on February 7, 2013

It seems like every child goes through a train phase starting in toddlerhood and ending…well, for some, never!

Photo of model train exhibit at the Elgin County Rail Museum, St. Thomas, Ontario
Photo credit: Rail Museum website

I distinctly remember my little brother’s obsession with his wooden Brio train set and Ian remembers spending much of his childhood improving his model railway. Ben and Molly are no exception and love building and playing with elaborate train tracks.

But I think Ben’s track-building obsession literally takes things to a whole new level.

Ben has always been a big Thomas fan and we supported that, amassing (with the help of generous and resourceful friends and family members) an impressive collection of Thomas-related toys, books, furniture, clothes, bedding, etc. When Ben was about 3 he produced his first recognizable drawing: At a time when any attempt to place a writing implement in his hand and suggest that he do anything other than scribble produced a complete hysterical meltdown, he woke us up one morning to show us that he had drawn a perfect train track and then stuck engine stickers onto it in.

At age 3 and 4, he was requesting that intricate tracks be built for him on the playroom floor. We considered getting a train table, but the size of tracks that he wanted would not have fit so we decided against. He would take the tracks that were built for him as a starting point and renovate sections of them to his specifications. I marveled at the little details he would add, like laying out blue cloths to be lakes and rivers (populated with bath toys that he would sneak downstairs), and once after a conversation about junctions and switches (probably with Uncle James) he cut out a paper triangle and taped it to one of his junction pieces to be a switch.

Once he was satisfied with a track, he would spend days (or weeks…as long as it took me to decide I wanted to be able to see the floor again for at least 24 hours) acting out Thomas stories with his engines.

Track - May 2011

Ben and Molly playing with trains, aged 4 and 1
©PicklesINK 2011

Around the time he turned 5, Ben stopped being satisfied with the ordinary options afforded by his train set. If he had slopes to make bridges, why couldn’t he make them multiple levels? What was to stop him having elevated tracks? Why, simply the lack of support pieces of the height he needed. Then he realized that he had drawers full of Lego and blocks at his disposal and the world was his oyster.

Track 2 - April 2012

Elevated bridge to an elevated junction.
©PicklesINK 2012

He experimented with elevated tracks and then formed a new goal – a bridge two bridges high – which after many failed attempts, he finally succeeded in creating.

Ben’s first two-bridges high bridge (over another bridge)
©PicklesINK 2012

The next game-changer happened this past November when we impulse-bought a ceramic Christmas village at our church bazaar. Shortly after it was set up on top of a cabinet, a train track and water tower mysteriously appeared in the centre of town.

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Christmas village with train track and water tower.
©PicklesINK 2013

Thus began Ben’s 3-month-long track-building project (no exaggeration – he worked on it from November to January), which I will let him describe in his own words.

The Legend of Brio Peak

By Ben Pickles, as told to Karyn Pickles

Long ago, the Brios went through a tunnel through Brio peak instead of going over it. It wasn’t easy. Some of the tunnel collapsed sometimes and some of the trains never made it back. It was clear that the trains needed a safe way to deliver their loads, so they decided to try and go over the mountain. It was hard, but after years of hard work, the trains finally built the track.

Brio Peak 4

Collapsed elevated track, part of an early attempt
©PicklesINK 2013

The track goes from Briotown on Brio Peak onto a bridge part to Brio Peak station, then onto another bridge part over Brio Pass all the way down to the biggest windowsill and then into a bumper. There is a brook under the tracks called Brio Brook.

Brio Peak 2

Brio Peak Station; where the track bends is where it passes over Brio Brook
©PicklesINK 2013

On the bridge parts there are no fences, so it is kind of dangerous, but there are supports.

Brio Peak 1

The bridgy part down from Brio Peak (with supports but no fences)
©PicklesINK 2013

The trains’ names are Brio and Aaron. Aaron doesn’t go all the way to the windowsill; he just goes from Briotown to Brio Peak Station. Brio goes all the way from the windowsill to the top of Brio Peak.

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Aaron pulling a passenger carriage
©PicklesINK 2013

There is only one road up to Brio Peak that is made especially for the Brio Power Crew. There is a cargo plane that brings building supplies to Briotown and Brio Peak. Brio and Aaron collect all of the garbage and recycling from all over Briotown and bring it to the cargo plane’s landing strip for the plane to pick up and then the cargo plane takes it to another town that has garbage and recycling facilities.

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Ben, proudly showing off the finished track (with tall supports).
©PicklesINK 2013

It was very hard to build the track, especially the supports, because some of them are really tall! I had to use up almost all of my Lego to make them tall enough.

The End

Ben celebrated his success by painting commemorative portraits of Brio and Aaron.

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Ben’s painting of Aaron, washable poster paint on canvas. Model in foreground.
©PicklesINK 2013

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Ben’s painting of Brio, washable poster paint on canvas. Model in foreground.
©PicklesINK 2013

Limited edition numbered prints and other merchandise will be available at a later date, just as soon as I can ink a deal with that British company that made all the William and Kate engagement stuff two years too early.

~ karyn

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2 responses to “Planes, trains and automobiles. But mostly trains.

  1. I am impressed! I had a racetrack for my miniature cars at that age and started my first Testarossa scale model 🙂

  2. […] Have I told you before how smart you are? I know all moms think “My kid is so smart!” but my Magoo, your intellect continues to astound me. I haven’t been able to win an argument with you since…well, since you learned to talk…and ever since you started moving around you’ve been building and creating amazing structures – first “simple” towers and now extensive multi-level train tracks like Brio Peak. […]

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