Mother of Confusion: Celebrate National Train Day with live events, shows, crafts and more

All aboard, it’s almost time to celebrate National Train Day on May 7. If you haven’t heard of it before, that’s because it’s fairly new. Amtrak started the holiday in 2008 to bring attention to the advantages of traveling by rail and the history of trains.

The event is held each year on the Saturday closest to May 10 to commemorate the 1869 Golden Spike ceremony that officially joined 1,776 miles of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways creating America’s first transcontinental railroad.

This year’s main event features Gladys Night and she’ll be sharing the stage, Amtrak has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of America. On May 5, some of the kids will share their vocal talents on stage with Gladys Night in the Rock’n the Rail Way Benefit Concert in New York. During the concert Knight will sing her new song, “The Dream,” which was produced by Randy Jackson.

Recently, she donated the song to the Boys & Girls Clubs to raise awareness and help fulfill the dreams of 4 million children. Signature National Train Day events are being held in cities around the country. (For event details visit:http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/resources/more/train_day_2011.)

Joining the celebration is PBS Kids. Kick-starting the month of train-related activities is a new episode of Jim Henson’s “Dinosaur Train.” Tune-in on May 6 to watch two new 11-minute segments. In “Junior Conductor Jamboree,” Buddy and his family travel on the Dinosaur Train from one end of the line to the other and visit three time periods: the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic. In the second, “Troodon Train Day,” the Pteranodon family rides to Troodon Town to celebrate, what else, Troodon Train Day.

Some PBS stations across the nation will be hosting train-themed events throughout the month. If your local station is celebrating, kids may meet Buddy and get their photo taken, participate in cool hands-on activities, watch Dinosaur Train, and just have an overall great time.

Check your local listings for show times.

You can celebrate all month by reading books about trains. Anita Silvey, children’s literature expert and author of the Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac (http://childrensbookalmanac.com), recommends Gordon Titcomb’s “The Last Train” with incredible illustrations by Wendell Minor (http://childrensbookalmanac.com/2011/03/wendell-minor). For more train-focused reads, chat with your local librarian.

Get hands-on at home with train crafts. Check out www.FirstPalette.com for step-by-step instructions on how to make a train with animals out of paper, crayons, glue and animal cutouts (http://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Animals/animaltrain/animaltrain.html). It’s cute enough to hang up as a decoration.

Visit the Disney Family Fun site to print out a train craft and follow directions to make it 3D. Get even more creative by printing the page in black and white and let your little one color it up. (http://familyfun.go.com/printables/build-your-own-train-steam-engine-703431 ) You can also read tips on how to plan your child’s first solo train trip and discover six great old-fashioned train destinations to ride the rails.

http://familyfun.go.com/vacations/riding-the-rails-712037/

http://familyfun.go.com/vacations/plan-your-childs-solo-train-trip-711563/

Don’t forget the culinary experience. It used to be that dining by rail was an all-out event – not to be compared to the packet of peanuts served on airplanes, or the Big Gulp and beef jerky pit stop at the convenience store while traveling by car. Explore and experience some of the fine dining classics of the railway past in your kitchen with recipes from James Porterfield’s “Dining By Rail” book, available on Amazon.com. Half the book is all about the food, the other half shares the rich history of the railway through the eyes of passengers, cooks and others in the business.

National Train Day Extras

Visit the official National Train Day website. (www.nationaltrainday.com) Inspired to take a trip, schedule one here: www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage.

Dinosaur Train

PBSKids has an interactive “Dinosaur Train” website where kids can join Buddy, Tiny and friends as they discover natural history and the science of paleontology through games and activities. Also, while you’re there, check out the new “All Aboard” game to become a junior conductor. To play, visit www.PBSKids.org/dinosaurtrain.

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Genevieve Hinson is a writer, wife and mom. She’s experienced 17 years of youth entertainment as a parent, and sorts through movies, TV shows, books, music, apps and more so you don’t have to. Find out what’s parent-friendly, kid-friendly, and what you should run screaming from, at