Observations from Thomas

Today, I spent the day as a “Thomas Host” during Day Out With Thomas at OERM. What this involves is helping load a group of between 30-100 Thomas attendees into your car, talking to them during the ride and keeping them safe, and helping them unload, and doing over and over and over again, every half-hour, with a few breaks. Here are my observations of the day:

  • The capacity of the train was much larger today. Last night three of the cars (capacity about 45 each) were swapped out for some newly received commuter cars from Montreal that hold 100. This resulted in last minute changes in loading and unloading procedures. The cars themselves are nice, if a bit spartan.
  • The schpiel was the usual reminders to stay seated, keep your body parts and siblings inside the car, etc. At time I felt like an airline attendent (apologies in advance to pradagirl), as I directed the people, with arm motions, to exit out the rear and to the right.
  • There were numerous times when I was confronted with an upset little tyke. It is amazing what going up to them, bending to eye level, and saying “I know what you need… a distraction.” Just going up to them and talking to them about needed a distraction in a funny voice often did the trick!
  • It was amazing how loud the cars were. With a normal foamer railfest crowd, you get quiet and questions about the age of the cars. With the crowd, it was applause as Thomas pulled out the station, lots of excited kids, and constant Thomas background music. But this is a good thing… I think (although it was odd going to sleep with the Thomas theme still running through my head).
  • One of the fun thing about rail festival is oogling watching the ladies. At the normal rail festivals, you often get the single girlfriends of foamers. At Thomas… it was moms. Now, you know you’re getting old when you see ones that look good to you… and then a little kid comes up and goes “gramma!” Sigh. [No, I didn’t touch. Looking is one thing. My wife and I have the rule: you touch, you die]
  • We did get a chance to meets some friends… totally by accident. I’m walking through the car next to mine (I was in F, and the N end of E had folks standing up and walking around, and the attendent was at the other end), and suddenly I hear “Daniel”. It was our friends Larry (Troll) and Brenda and their children. They hung around afterwards, and we had a delightful dinner.
  • Often, on the cars, I would ask the guests if they were having fun, enjoying the museum, and point them to things they might like to do. I go up to one such mom and dad, with 2 yo in tow. The dad is wearing a T-shirt from the CTMS Solstice Festival (and I’m friends with the founder of CTMS)… so I ask them where they are from. They say they live and work in “El Segundo”. So I ask them where they work. They both say “Circle A Ranch” (which is where I work). So I discover we all work together, and are all into board gaming. I think we’ll invite them up the next gaming day.
  • Talking to some of the other volunteers, one of them referred to the guests as “Walking $20 bills” (no I don’t remember who said it). I think that’s pretty crass. If you treat the guest well, they may join and turn out to be worth much more. If you treat them badly, they will say bad things, and possibly even be a net loss of potential attendees. I always try to be nice to our visitors — for many, this is the first time, and they do keep coming back.
  • Also in our loading area there was one of our railroad museum cats. He spent the day sitting in the sun, bemusedly watching the visitors, collecting occasional scritches and hearing all day “oooh, a kitty!”.

All in all, a fun day. Now I’m beat (for I also drove home). Now to go get my stuff together for work tomorrow…