Saturday, July 21, 2007

On Toy Trains

From Dan: We never sold Thomas the Tank Engine Trains, not because they're made in China, but because we've always had an aversion to anthropomorphized machinery. We've never been keen about what kind of life lessons children are able to take from Thomas, which are: 1. The tracks are already laid out for your whole life. Do not leave the tracks. 2. A rich man in a top hat will tell you what to do and you will be judged based on how useful you are to him. 3. You live in a strict class system where some engines are more important than others, all engines are more important than boxcars and passenger cars, and an underclass of human workers serves them all. As a moral, it's almost Victorian. Which makes sense, since Thomas was invented in 1940's England by a clergyman, the Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry.

In our store, we've always opted for Brio trains instead. They look like real trains with no faces, offering a more direct connection to the real world. At the time we added them to the store, they were still made in Sweden, but Brio has been moving production to China in the past few years. We've been impressed with how Brio has upheld its quality standards and we hope that they will maintain better control than RC2 did with Thomas. But, we wanted to add an option for trains that isn't made in China.

So, we are pleased to introduce Whittle Shortline Trains, which are made in Missouri. Not only are these trains very well made, but they offer a very unique appeal for kids. Each wooden train, car and caboose is painted just like real life trains that kids are likely to see everyday. We've picked lines that are common to the upper midwest--Burlington Northern, The Great Northern Railway, the Rock Island Line, Santa Fe, and Wisconsin Central. So, when your child sees a train crossing a viaduct above you, she can spot elements from her own toys at home.

Of course, Whittle Shortline trains will work perfectly with Thomas, Brio, or Plan City trains and track. What moral will emerge from playing with them, however, will be up to you and your child.
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