May’s Second Thursday preschool program featured the miniature park train as the vehicle of the month.
Many can fondly recall the small train sets that operated at fairs, zoos, parks, and even the occasional drive-in theater. These trains reached their peak popularity during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1946, the G-16 train set was introduced. The ‘G’ indicated that the train was modeled after a GM locomotive (formerly EMC) and the ’16’ indicated the track gauge of 16 inches. On April 4, 1947, the first G-16 locomotive, #501, began a 30-year run at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Two such park train sets were donated to the Southeastern Railway Museum by Ben and Joy Black. These train sets (two locomotives and eight passenger cars) were originally purchased and used at the Birmingham Zoo. They were manufactured by the Miniature Train Company in 1957 and used by the Zoo until their retirement in 1976. Over 240 G-16 train sets were produced by the MTC, and approximately 70 locomotives remain in existence as of the early 2010s, with about 50 currently in operation.
After the donation of the park train set to the Southeastern Railway Museum, the Museum began fundraising and planning for its restoration and for the installation of track. In October of 2012, the Museum began regular Park Train operations using one of the train sets on a loop track of 1,600 feet.
During the program, the preschoolers were engaged in several activities. At the craft station, the children made a miniature version of a park train using cardboard tubes and small images of passengers to color with Crayons. The game station’s conductor, Mr. Mike, helped the children sort through containers to find the one holding a train horn inside. They earned stickers and toy train whistles during this game. At the activity station, the preschoolers learned about horn paddles that stand alongside railroad tracks signifying to engineers when to blow the horn for a grade crossing. Children made their own paddle showing the long-short-long-long sequence signal out of construction paper. The Gwinnett County Public Library read a story and sang songs about zoo animals since miniature trains are often found at zoos and theme parks. Lastly, children and families took a loop around the track on the park train while the train crew pointed out the horn signal, crossing gates, and tiny train tracks!
June will bring our popular Ice Cream Truck Second Thursday program featuring a real vehicle from Atlanta Ice Cream Truck. Ice cream will be available for purchase during the program. There will be a craft, activity, game, and story for the children to participate in that revolve around the ice cream truck theme. Please purchase your tickets online early to make sure you have a spot in the June Second Thursday program. Once the tickets are sold out on line, there will not be extra tickets to purchase at the museum.
Kristen Fredriksen (Media Coordinator) & Ruth Hummel (Education Editor)