Upon our return from Big Sis’s place in Virginia Beach in September, after a combined, oh, 19 or so hours on Amtrak, Little G was nearly inconsolable to no longer have his cousins around to play with.
So we asked, half jokingly, Big Sis if she might bring one or two of the kiddies north for a visit on the Amtrak.
And she did this past weekend, so we set out on Metro-North yesterday to return our visiting kin to Penn Station.
Entering that drab Amtrak waiting room, we flashed back to the misery of our late September journey; our train 90 minutes delayed out of Boston, Little G and Little Miss C nearly draining our snack supply and iPad battery reserve, The Missus and I figuring out exactly what time we would decide to scrap the trip and head home. It was heartening to be in Penn Station and not traveling anywhere.
A trip to Penn Station is a good reminder for we Grand Central denizens about just how good we have it; you don’t see a soul snapping photos of the ceiling or the exterior or their friends in Penn.
I mentioned to Big Sis our good fortune with the Red Caps last time, who helped us board early and beat the cluster waiting to descend the freakishly narrow escalator once the train finally showed and the track was announced. She did the same, so we bid farewell and watched them disappear into the crowd, the red hat of their porter bobbing off in the distance.
Predictably, Little G was again broken-hearted. We told him he’d see the cousins in a month, at Christmas, and would even see the other side’s batch of cousins at Thanksgiving. He was still sad.
“The only thing that will make me happy is a toy Amtrak train,” he announced.
Sure, we were being played, but we just wanted to get that sad look off his face.
If they sell miniature Amtrak trains in Penn Station, we couldn’t find them. Nothing at Hudson News, and the NYC gift shop didn’t have them either (though if it’s a personalized kiddie NY license plate you’re looking for, or a mini city bus, you’re in luck).
So we hopped a cab to Grand Central, recalling that the holiday flea market often has an MTA booth selling Thomas-compatible subways, Metro-North cars, etc.
You see the booth soon as you enter at 42nd, just to the left in Vanderbilt Hall. We chatted with the booth lady, who said they didn’t have Amtrak, but suggested we try the Transit Museum gift shop around the corner.
Five years of commuting in and out of Grand Central, and I’d never been in the gift shop. There’s a pretty cool electric train setup, with a miniature Empire State Building and a mountain and a seaport and other intriguing landscapes and landmarks, including a mini Grand Central, trains whirring and whizzing all around.
They had subway cars and Metro-North trains. They had New Jersey Transit trains and even CTA cars out of Chicago, but no love for Amtrak. I tried to convince Little G that a Philly SEPTA train was, in fact, an Amtrak, but he wasn’t having it.
As we boarded the 1:48 for points north, Little G cried because we weren’t sure if the new toy train came off its plastic track, but we knew the real reason for the tears was cousin withdrawal. He composed himself before we got out of the tunnel, and actually enjoyed the toy train the rest of the way.
The new train didn’t exactly fit on the Thomas tracks at home, but Little G built a city around it nonetheless.