Get them on the train!

We just had a baby boy – our third. Big brother Boaz and big sister Dalya were joined on 6 January by little Isaac. Evidently, it’s Jason who is writing this blog entry as Bill’s wife would be very surprised to hear that she now has three children.

In our family we have a tradition. When each kid is six weeks old, he or she takes their first ride on a VIA train. On 20 February, at the ripe old age of 44 days, Isaac was put on the train to Brockville. The rest of the family came too.

The Shrons at Oshawa Station en route to Brockville

Isaac and (most of the) family ready to board train #54 at Oshawa Station

This kid follows after his father’s heart. He was underwhelmed by the Renaissance cars…

Isaac in the Renaissance Coach…but he was very excited by the LRC. So excited, actually, that when I tried to get him to look out the window he was more interested in studying the seat back detail. I think he plans to scratchbuild some more modern LRC seats for his fleet because his daddy’s seats will be too old school for him.

Isaac on board the LRC

Isaac’s brother and sister ride VIA all the time. We regularly go to Brockville, Kingston and London, as they are an easy day trip from Toronto.

Shrons and Wakefords in Brockville

Junior Shrons and Wakefords on a summer day trip to Brockville

Whenever we go to Winnipeg (once or twice a year), we take the train. Some people talk about their “once-in-a-lifetime” trip on The Canadian. Our kids can talk about their “most recent” trip on The Canadian and they are always looking forward to their next one.

Shrons on The Canadian

Shrons in a Skyline dome car in northern Ontario, 2010

This blog post is not just an excuse to share photos of my kids, as much as I love to do that. If you read our newsletter, you’ve probably heard me rant about kids in our hobby. I don’t think that getting kids into model railroading is what will necessarily ensure our hobby has a future – what will ensure it has a future is getting kids into trains. And the best way to do that is to take them on the train. A lot.

Someone once said to me, “well you can talk – you can afford to take the train!” My response to that is probably not publishable here. But if you can afford to be a model railroader, chances are you can afford to take the train. VIA regularly has seat sales of 50% and 60% off everything. And each week VIA announces sales which often include up to 75% off The Canadian. There is one on right now, with hundreds of discounted tickets for travel on The Canadian as late as 31 May 2012 (which is of course three weeks before our next trip to Winnipeg!). Click here to visit VIA’s Express Deals page.

It’s about choices. I know modellers who never consider taking the train, with the usual excuses that it takes too long or it’s too expensive. Yes, model railroaders. After I express my shock and horror at such blasphemy, I ask how much they spent on their car. Or on their home entertainment system. Or on their annual vacation to Hawaii. Suddenly the $1200 return fare for you and your grandson to travel to Winnipeg and back in a Manor sleeper on The Canadian is not looking so out of this world.

And the more you take the train, the cheaper it is. I never pay for my kids’ tickets on The Canadian. They go for free using VIA Preference points. It is easily the most generous reward program in the travel industry, and unlike airline reward tickets, VIA reward tickets are actually free – you don’t pay ANY taxes or fees. You can also earn points when shopping at Chapters, the Apple Store, and about a hundred other places. You can visit the VIA Preference web site here.

If you live south of the border, Amtrak regularly has sales on their Facebook page and their Guest Rewards program is almost as generous as VIA’s. There is also an Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard which will quickly earn you even more free travel.

Getting off the train in Brockville.
They aren’t LRCs, but the Rens are still fine looking cars!

If you want your children or grandchildren to be model railroaders when they grow up, you need to get them onto trains. Trains need to be an active part of their lives, not just something in Grandpa’s basement. And you can bet those kids will cherish every time they take the train with you. When you are gone, the train trips will be among the dear memories that remind them of you, and they will want to keep taking the train to keep those memories alive.

Click here for VIA or click here for Amtrak. Go book your tickets.