''Little Enough to Ride for Free? Little Enough to Ride Your Knee''

I can remember the subway slogan of yesteryear, ''Little enough to ride for free? Little enough to ride your knee.'' The next BIG slogan The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had was “Step Aside.” What exactly was step aside? It is the exact spot, marked by yellow boxes, where the doors of an approaching subway train stop. The thought behind “step aside” is to allow a speedier exit for those passengers inside, and save time for those outside to get into the train. However, it seems that people crowded around the step aside yellow boxes and caused the same delay for all passengers, proving that urban transportation is too fast and passengers have to stay alert and move quickly. The latest MTA slogan, post 9/11, is “See Something, Say Something.” It is important to be alert to your surroundings and report any suspicious items or activities to a transit worker or police officer.

For over twenty years, I took the subway from Brooklyn to New York City and then the Long Island Railroad for another five years to school and work. Twenty-five years later I learned all the stops from Trenton, New Jersey to Penn Station, New York.

Just in the last four years, after all that commuter train riding, I experienced a totally fun and relaxing way to travel. A tourist train offers an experience all can enjoy, without the hustle and bustle that one experiences riding on urban trains. While in Colorado, I took train rides where conductors still cry, “All Aboard,” and not “Watch the Closing Doors.” The scenery was phenomenal. I boarded the Pikes Peak Cog Railway wearing just a tee shirt and gradually added a sweater, a winter coat, a scarf and a hat as the train labored to the summit of the 14,000 foot mountain. And this was in the summer! I was able to ride between the mountains on the Royal Gorge route and up and over the Georgetown Loop, viewing the breathtaking Colorado Rockies.

Children from 3-93 will enjoy an outing with the family on board a tourist railroad. There are scenic railroad journeys that you can take with the family that are nearby. I recommend:
  • Black River and Western Railroad- Ringoes, NJ
  • New Hope and Ivyland Railroad- New Hope, PA
  • Delaware River Railroad- Phillipsburg, NJ
  • Strasburg Railroad- Strasburg, PA
Black River and Western Railroad- Ringoes, NJ
What can school-age children learn while riding on the rails? Children can do a quick lesson in math, science and geography. Try naming all the towns on route; decide if the train is run by diesel, electricity, or steam; calculate the time it takes to reach your destination. Look out the window, and examine the terrain. This makes for an exciting conversation.

The Mercer County Library System has an abundance of items regarding trains.

Picture Books Classics on Trains

Freight Train by Donald Crews.
Brief text and illustrations trace the journey of a colorful train as it goes through tunnels, by cities, and over trestles.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
When the other engines refuse, the Little Blue Engine tries to pull a stranded train full of toys and good food over the mountain.

Thomas the Tank Engine by Reverend W. Awdry
The original collection of stories about Thomas in a friendly, new, larger size! First published in 1946, and continuously in print since then, these are the first four of Thomas' many adventures. He cheekily tries to upset Gordon, accidentally leaves his coaches behind, and has a lot of trouble with the Troublesome Trucks, but in the end he learns many lessons about being a Really Useful Engine.

Easy Readers

Blue Train, Green Train by Tommy Stubbs
Based on The Railway Series by The Reverend W. Awdry. Blue train Thomas works all day, and Green train Percy works all night.

Railroad Toad by Susan Schade
Step into reading/A Step One book
Fun-loving toad likes nothing better than to ride the train to unknown destinations.

Thomas & Friends: Flynn Saves the Day by Reverend W. Awdry.
Based on the Railway Series by the Reverend W. Awdry. When Thomas and Percy smell smoke, they know there's one engine who can help. Can Flynn race to the rescue in time?

Easy Nonfiction

All Aboard! A True Train Story by Susan Kuklin
Take a journey through part of the Colorado Rockies aboard a steam locomotive of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Includes historical and descriptive notes on the Durango & Silverton trains.

C is for Caboose: Riding Rails from A to Z by Traci Todd
Colorful train pictures arranged according to the alphabet.

Steam, Smoke, and Steel: Back in Time with Trains by Patrick O’Brien
Traces the development of railroad engines from coal to steam to diesel as he recounts his family’s experience of driving trains over the years.

Train Whistles by Helen Roney Sattler
Describes the use of train whistles as signals and what some of these signals mean.

Juvenile Fiction

The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Boxcar Children series tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest.
Juvenile Nonfiction

Hear that Train Whistle Blow! How the Railroad Changed the World by Milton Meltzer
The history of rail transportation, focusing on how it transformed societies from isolated communities that rarely communicated or traded into unified nations.

How Railroads Shaped America by Jack O’Mara
Explores the history of trains in the United States.

Locomotive by Brian Floca
Learn what it was like to travel on the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. A must read for any train enthusiast! Winner of the Caldecott Award.

Seymour Simon’s Book of Trains by Seymour Simon
Eye-catching full color photographs of steam, diesel and electric trains-all at work!


It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and families are traveling together, riding America's brand new transcontinental railroad. The pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean. Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

Lots & Lots of Big Trains of Big Trains
An exciting program featuring the ground pounding sounds and close-up views of giant steam and diesel engines that shake the ground as they thunder on by. There is no narration, it’s just like being right by the tracks.

Lots & Lots of Trains Volume 1, Smokin’ Steam and Diesel
There are over 300 different shots of trains, with close-up camera footage combined with sing-along songs.

Thomas and Friends: Best of Percy
Join Thomas, James, Sir Topham Hatt and the rest of your Sodor friends as we honor everyone's favorite little engine who does really big things, Percy.

Yes, I am a true train enthusiast! You can become one too!

-Susan Seidenberg


  1. Just in the past few years I've ridden the Royal Gorge, Georgetown Loop and Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Colorado. And I've also done the Black River & Western, New Hope & Ivyland, and Strasburg Railroad when my kids were little. All fascinating and beautiful! I've got one more recommendation, though: some kids -- especially those who usually get around by car -- really enjoy just plain passenger trains or commuter lines as much as the tourist railways. Sometimes, rather than driving to the Adventure Aquarium or into Philadelphia, taking the River Line or Patco makes the day's adventures even more exciting!

    1. Bravo! The adventure of taking a plain old commuter train for a few stops is like a trip to the moon for some kids.


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