Sunday, October 5, 2008

Of trains and Thomas the tank engine***

Oh well, some posts just aren't meant to be. For the entire last month, I have been thinking of writing about - umm, shall we let that be a secret for a while more? Suffice it to say that this post, started actually a couple of days back, was supposed to be IT. And then, it isn't. All because I saw this photo by Jan Bussey, over at Cascade Exposures. (Note: photo copyright rests with Jan Bussey; not to be reproduced without permission. And yes, I have permission!) It is so well taken that merely looking at it makes me feel the shaking jolting train under my feet, the gravel flowing still underneath. And I remember.

The feel of wind, warm but easy, whipping my face, tangling my hair, leaning out of the door hanging by the handles, courting danger, or into the window grill, facing the engine shooting soot. From time to time, the whiff of seas, the freshness of foothills, the earthiness of gobar piles and choked up ponds, the unusual aroma of those little yellow catkins on thorny trees I never knew the name of, the smell of greenery at dusk.

The village panoramas, the countless eucalyptus rushing past, the bullock cart on distant dirt roads, the herds of thin cows, the hankies of yellow or green pocketed in little fields, the desolation of dry river beds. The road running alongside a long while, with its line of apparently motionless trucks peeking between trees, the tableaux of tractors at crossings; the children, recoiled from in their unknown-ness, shouting, throwing pebbles, following; the unending wires keeping company to the train tracks.

The feeling of freedom, of anticipation and adventure, of summer holidays. And later, traveling along, of being suspended for a while in a space time where you can be just who you are, or want to be, not needing to be the role you play...

And, after a little while, as nostalgia wears off, and I remember other journeys besides those made as a child to nani's, I remember also the hidden faces of smart cities - the clustered asbestos roofs all different levels tagged on to each other like art nouveau multimedia collages; the railway houses, all alike in their unimaginative boxness, dry and gardenless for the most part; the slums and rotting garbage piles, and the haphazard back alleys in posh colonies seen from a different perspective... The gleeful child's outlook gets tempered with new found vision of the anguishing adolescent. The children, too thin, feet unshod, asking for money or food as they run; the little windblown heaps besides the tracks of discarded plastic bottles, cups, plates and other stuff; the shit on the tracks, the spits inside, on floors too dusty to lean down and open bags on, the stinking spilling toilets. All of a sudden, I am grown up, just going from one place to another, choosing instead of windy second class carriages - being able to choose, the first class, then A/C cars, and not going back, for any romance that had been in the past. As the windows dull with darkened double glass, and preferred overnight fast trains, books, always a companion, become even more so. I now, fret about seats, worry about baggage safety, avoid sticky conversations with uncomfortable fellow passengers, looking in vain for more congenial beings. I remember the emotions, and I long for - but seldom find, or allow myself to find, that feeling of being complete, myself, whole, undivided and exultant, as I sit in the train carrying me hither. I sit and muse about recent events of life, think of the loved ones left behind more often than not, plan for the chores ahead, already trying to manage tight time schedules from taking this break...

The train journey becomes, now, just travel.

On, then, to today's site - Thomas and friends! I haven't yet touched on the sites of the popular tv networks, except BBC, for a good reason. They each have far too many characters, and so, games, with little common except that these shows are on that particular network. I have been wondering how best to approach them - according to the shows, or the networks, or bit of both, and it appears now that I shall have to do the last. For this site is actually owned by HIT entertainment, UK, although the copyright for Thomas and friends is owned by Guillame (Thomas) Ltd. If I had a post on HIT, there would be, understandably, very little info about Thomas. But on the other hand, because there are links from here to the other shows of HIT, I can't not mention them either :)

The url I have linked to will take you to the initial choose-your-country page. When I last checked, each country had slightly different games and layout, but at the time of posting, at least the sites for UK and USA are now identical.

The home page above will link to activities, games and engines - which is all about the various engines featured in the show, and is quite useful for the little fans out there. The activities page has some colouring sheets for offline work, plus other downloadables like posters and wallpapers. It also has simple games - an online colouring one and a decorate the sheds game.

The games on the site are not too complex either, doable by a preschooler on the main. The graphics, on the other hand, throughout the site, are excellent.

The usual matching game, puzzle and click to burst balloon games are present, of course. Common, but fun for young kids nevertheless. The ones which are slightly challenging are the remote control and race games. Building an engine or the lego station are easy as well.

The emotions game is an unexpected finding here. It consists of matching the emotion named with the engines shown, and is useful for the toddler group as well. In fact, for most games I have found that an adult playing them will keep infants and toddlers engaged as long as the visuals are good and there is something happening as opposed to just numbers or words on the screen.

The url -

P.S. For the life of me, can't remember any train poems that I have liked! Can you?


jlbussey said...

My favorite train poem is actually a song: "City of New Orleans." It's a perfect little vignette of a bygone era. My great-grandfather was a telegrapher for the railroads, and my grandfather's greatest disappointment was that he didn't get to work for the railroad too.

Your description of the wind in your hair reminded me of another poem, it's not about trains, but it's a good one anyway:

I must go down to the seas again to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.
(John Masefield)

Swati said...

That is beautiful - a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking... Lovely!