A golden opportunity goes off the rails…

Went to Hamilton’s Museum of Steam and Technology on the weekend. Free admission so the price was right.

Anyone with young kids knows all about Thomas the Tank Engine. We’ve spent far too many hours reading and watching Thomas and his Really Useful Friends get into crazy misadventures on the Island of Sodor.

At the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology, there’s an outdoor set of train tracks and miniature trains you can ride. If you ever watch Cable 14 in Hamilton, it seems as though they’re always showing a clip of the trains. So you think the museum would capitalize on Thomas and win over the kids (and their parents) who show up all excited in their Thomas t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

But no. You get the immediate and distinct impression that the volunteer conductors running the trains would be just as happy if none of us showed up. Maybe even happier. Aside from 1 or 2 volunteers, no one cracked a smile. No one talked up the kids or made a big show of riding the rails. Clearly, they weren’t there because of their love of children. So grown men riding around on little trains becomes sort of creepy.

And a few other cringe-inducing moments. There was the volunteer that wore a sweatshirt that let the world know he prefers his women to be like a six-pack of beer. Not really sure what that means but not so family-friendly. And then there was a coal-fired train (the stinky train as my son called it) that kept derailing. At least 8 times while we were lined up. You’d think after the first derailment the train would get parked in a shed. But no. Volunteers came sauntering over to trouble-shoot, leaving us waiting on the tracks. Again, they seemed more interested in fixing the train than interacting with the kids.

Either make the track and trains an off-limits members-only club for grown men or open it up to the general public and make the kids feel special. As it stands, I wouldn’t recommend the museum to anyone, even on days when admission is free.

Of course, once you’ve had your fill of riding on the Unhappy Railroad, you can spend five minutes touring the two 45-foot high, 70-ton steam engines that pumped the first clean water to Hamilton over 140 years ago (one engine operates as a demonstration every day!). It’s as fun as it sounds.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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