Ever since man invented the wheel, he has searched for a better and faster way to get from point A to point B. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, but maybe it’s because walking is such a complex and difficult process for us. Walking upright takes a lot of balance and co-ordination, placing the entire weight of our bodies on the few square inches of our feet. That’s hard enough, but when we take a step, we throw the whole thing off kilter.
I guess one of the earliest forms of transportation was the litter. All you needed was a few servants to carry you on their backs. Someone to walk beside the litter and fan you with a giant feather was probably the first option available.
The litter was good for short trips around town, but those servants sure didn’t get many miles to the gallon. You were always stopping so they could rest and refuel. So the horse was a good option for long distance travel. They could travel for many miles without a refill. A camel was even better. But, you could only pack so many items on their back; a little food and water and a blanket was about it.
The buckboard was yesterday’s SUV. You could pack along your supplies and your family. But adding all that weight required an extra horse and slowed you down considerably, so the train was invented. Rail transport goes back some 500 years and actually included rails made of stone. Modern rail transportation using steam dates back to about 1820.
In the early 1900’s, folks got tired of cleaning up the horse poop on the streets and the automobile was born. The other reason was to find something useful to do with all that black oily goop that was oozing out of the ground. Then along came the Wright Brothers and we took off for the skies.
The Museum of Transportation in St. Louis has examples of all these various modes of transportation. There aren’t any horses, but there are a few contraptions that you can attach them to, plus lots of classic cars and quite a few old trains, from steam to diesel powered.
My friend and I went to the museum one beautiful Saturday afternoon during a brief weekend break in this blistering St. Louis August weather. After parking, we went into the gift shop to buy our tickets. The admission price for adults is $8, children get in for $5. I asked the person at the counter for camera batteries (I had forgotten mine) and she directed us to a SECOND gift shop which also served as a snack bar.
The place was packed. I waited in line for about fifteen minutes while a single employee tried to cook all of the food that was ordered and ring up all the gift shop purchases. They definitely need an additional cash register and a few more employees. A second person who had been wiping down tables in the eating area finally came back to help.
Then we walked over to the miniature train station. We had about a 5-minute wait before boarding the tiny little diesel train for a short jaunt around the park. It was a pleasant trip with a nice breeze. I might have fallen asleep if the seating hadn’t been a little cramped. But the ride was very short, so short that they completed it a second time just in case you missed anything the first time around. Besides the train, there is also a gas-powered tram.
Before we started the long 20-second ride up the hill, the tram driver told us his personal life story and the stories of all of the other tram and train drivers. It was curious that none of them were model train enthusiasts or had any other type of hobby that involved trains.
Now was the time for my favorite part of the visit. After the train ride we went over to the tram. The whole purpose of the tram is so that seniors, disabled folks, and small children don’t have to make the trek up a very steep hill that leads to the car museum and the train shed area.
The car museum had all kinds of road vehicles in it including an old horse-drawn hearse and one of the earliest motorcycles I’ve ever seen. There is also a classic 1964 Ford Mustang, a ’57 Chevy Bel Air, and an old Pierce Arrow. I also liked the 1924 Moon car that was on display.
After looking at the old cars, we went outside to look at the collection of locomotives, which is what the museum is famous for. We got to walk around the trains and go inside them for the most part. I liked sitting at the throttle of one of the locomotives and checking out the inside of a caboose where the crew slept and the conductor had his office. It was also where they kept track of the back of the train.
We took a short, and I do mean short, ride on a trolley and looked at the remains of a train car that had just about turned to dust, a reminder of what would have happened to most of these beautiful relics if they hadn’t been restored. We also saw two vintage military planes: One was a prop plane and the other was a jet, as well as a tugboat.
So if your into trains, planes, and automobiles, the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis is a great place to go…and take the children. It seemed like there were thousands of them there. I guess the need for speed is programmed into our genes.
The museum is open Memorial Day – Labor Day, Monday – Saturday 9 am – 4 pm; Sunday 11 am – 4 pm. The museum is located at 3015 Barrett Station Road, St. Louis, MO 63122