We took the kids out to Promontory Point this morning so they could see where the east rails (the Union Pacific) met the west rails (Pacific Railway) in 1869 (with the 150th anniversary being held next month). It's a two-hour drive and the kids were golden. Rachel sat beside Alexander and kept him happy, the other kids read and looked out their windows, and there was hardly a harsh word spoken (though tempers flared every now and then).
I don't remember why Rachel is sitting on top of the van:
In the back of my mind I think I see Andrew hoisting her up there, but I'm really not sure. I was busy corralling the other kids.
I still felt slightly guilty about every minute we spent playing on the tracks, though (even though Andrew assured me that his family had played on the tracks when they visited years ago and that the rangers would have come out to reprimand us).
Here's sweet Alexander climbing on a railway tie:
And here he is answering the question, "Where are the kids?":
Here are the kids by a commemorative laurel wood railway tie:
The actual tie (along with the commemorative stakes) were removed almost immediately after it was laid and was shipped off to California. The tie itself perished in a fire following the San Fransisco earthquake of 1906. The golden spike is on display at Stanford University.
Here are Benjamin and Zoë climbing on a stack of railroad ties:
Here are the kids balancing between two different sets of tracks (none of them were quite able to stretch across one set of tracks, but here where the tracks split they were all able to):
Alexander wasn't too sure about standing up on the tracks...
But after a little prompting he got up. He's really not great at stairs yet so that's probably why he didn't like walking down the tracks—there was lots of up and down stepping, which made him nervous.
Andrew and I were able to stretch across the tracks and since the Jupiter 60 and the Union Pacific 119 were still being stored for the winter, the kids decided that we should reenact the trains meeting on the tracks ourselves.
So we did, because we're classy.
It was not easy.
Here are a few more pictures of us straddling the tracks (because apparently we didn't have anything better to do on Saturday morning):
These are my favourite shots—Miriam was screaming about Alexander nearly knocking her over:
And here are a few of all our kids lined up, from the oldest, right down to our caboose (I couldn't decide which one I liked best and because I didn't want spend time swapping heads on photoshop you get to see them all) :
Here's Miriam and I racing down the railroad ties:
The kids did the Junior Ranger program there, of course. Rachel is starting to feel too old to participate in such things, so she helped Zoë with her booklet. Zoë was very serious about completing all her questions because she wanted to earn her "badger."
"I need to answer every question so I can get my badger! I really, really want my badger! Can you help me know what to do on this page so I can finish earning my badger?"
Here she is making an oath with the ranger before getting her "badger":
She pledged to be safe around railroad tracks, eat her vegetables, clean her room, and go to bed on time—like a good little ranger. And then she got her "badger" and declared, "This isn't a badger at all! It's more like a bat shape. Badgers are round!"
I'm not really sure what she was thinking, but we pinned the plastic shield-shaped badge(r) to her shirt and she was very proud of it.
Here are the kids inside the museum, sitting inside of a sign commemorating April 28, 1868, when 10 miles of track were laid in one day—a rather impressive accomplishment for the rather slow-moving Pacific Railway (in their defense, they were mostly blasting their way through granite mountains so their slow progress is excusable). We thought it was cool that we visited so close to that date (and I suppose a visit on May 10 during the 150th anniversary would have been even neater—but probably also a lot more crowded):
You can read about that record-setting day here. I also enjoyed this photoshoot of Chinese Americans reenacting the Champagne Photograph (an iconic picture taken of the two locomotives nose to nose on the track, where someone on one train has a champagne bottle and someone on the other train has a couple of champagne glasses). For years Chinese Americans have been asking to be represented in the reenactment because Chinese laborers did the lion's share of work on the railroad, but they've been told no because there were no Chinese present for the original photo. They fairly pointed out that there were no women present for the photo, either, yet women are involved in the reenactment. And then they decided to just gather together and do their own iconic photo. And I think it's great!
We're currently reading By the Shores of Silver Lake out loud and thus we'll be hearing a lot about trains in the coming days, so this ended up being a perfectly timed field trip!