Not Just for Stoners
My significant other was skeptical about Travel Town. When I brought up going to the Train Museum, hidden on the north side of Griffith Park next to the Zoo and the 134 Freeway, he scoffed and said that ‘a certain mind-altering substance would have to be present for him to waste his Sunday afternoon on a bunch of broken down locomotives’.
I must admit, I was worried too when a bunch of kids came bursting through the wooden gated entrance of Travel Town just as we arrived. Maybe you did have to be a die-hard, lunch-box-toting, Thomas the Train fan to enjoy this place. Not that I don’t love Thomas the Train. I mean, he ‘thought he could‘, and he did. What could be more inspiring than that?
The first thing I noticed inside the grounds was how much more enormous the trains were than I had expected. I am a little bit taller than a three year old, and the train wheels alone still stretched far above my head! We were able to explore inside some of the trains and surreptitiously climb on the engines. The interiors are great backdrops for reenacting your favorite scene from “Darjeeling Limited” or the Thora Birth horror film, “Train”.
What I kept wondering, as we wandered through the trainyard, surrounded by the ghosts of Los Angeles’s mass-transit giants, was what our world would be like if we had never moved beyond electric rail cars and steam.
Would things be so inefficient if the car hadn’t come along, giving everyone the autonomous ability to choose their own transit schedules, creating hours of traffic jams while doing so? And what about all our hard earned money spent on car insurance, car maintenance, car accidents, road repair!
Sure, the lay out of LA and the country would be different, but not necessarily for the worse.
But Travel Town does not conjecture on this fantasy future of cities criss-crossed by high-speed rail. No, it continues its historical narrative to the arrival of the “train assassin” itself: the private automobile.
The bevy of original car companies boasted their appeal: “No hill too steep, no sand too deep” claimed the Jackson car model. “The Car of No Regrets”-boasted the King. “Worth the Money”-simply stated the Star.
My great-grandfather hitched a ride on a horse and buggy into Akron to buy his first automobile in 1920. He drove it straight home from the store, having never driven in his life or had a lesson.
He promptly took the whole thing apart to see how it worked then put it back together. My grandmother remembers it never ran quite as well again.
It only took 50 minutes to take in all the sights at Travel Town that Sunday. And not only is admission free, they don’t even give you a dirty look if you pass by the donation box at the entry empty handed.
To quote my boyfriend, “Travel Town is actually pretty interesting”. No Mary Jane or infants required.