No Car Adventures: Train Table by Train

We’ve wanted to get Henry a train table for a few months. He is train crazy and we’d like to give him a better space to set up his tracks and tunnels than the living room coffee table. In an effort to support the local economy we also wanted to try and buy it on island.

Unfortunately, none of the three toy stores in our town had train tables or could order us one. We even ventured by bus one weekend to the fancy mall Tynwald Mills to check the place out and see if the toy store there had them. Nope.

A little more digging and a phone call revealed that there was a display train table on the island at less than half price because some train track had been glued to the table top. The catch was that it was in Port Erin. A £30+ one way cab ride away.

Sometimes not having a car is a giant pain in the ass. I can readily admit that.

And sometimes not having a car makes you creative.

I decided to turn the train table trip into an adventure by train (of course).

We left home on foot with Henry in the Ergo carrier on my back. It’s about a 30 minute walk from our place to the steam train station.

Not winning a style award today but getting a good workout.

Excited to board the train for his first choo choo trip of the season.

An hour through rolling green hills, saying hello to sheep and horses …

…and we arrived. We then marched across the street to the toy store and bought…

… our new, to us, train table. That fit perfectly in the train carriage. Note: I asked the station attendant in Douglas if it would be okay to bring it back on the train. They were fine with it because it’s still low season and the trains aren’t very full.

One last inspection of the train.

Time for a quick test drive before the train departed.

And then we were off.

More green hills and a view of the sea.

A sleepy boy on my shoulder for the last half of the ride.

And then we were back in Douglas with our train table.

We grabbed a cab (£6/$10) to haul our find home and that was the end of the adventure.

Sure, it’s not always easy being a car-less family. But we try and make it fun. We try to make the journey part memorable.

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    • Thank you. I thought it was a fun day and Henry had a blast. The train system here on the Isle of Man is a lot of fun and we’ll be spending more time on them as the weather improves.

  • I love this story!! I’m sure Henry will remember his train journey to get his train table! The Isle of Man looks like such a cool place. I somehow doubt a C-Train ride in Calgary to pick up something similar would have the same charm as your trip. Makes me want to ditch the big city in favour of a slower paced life somewhere…..!

    • You never know… maybe the C-Train is cool for rural kids?
      This has been a good change of pace for us. Not sure it is forever but I think we will be here for another 4 years or so.
      Miss all you Calgary people!!

  • So neat! We are stuck in one of the suburb-iest suburbs I have ever encountered, and driving is absolutely necessary to see friends, attend La Leche League meetins, etc. I hate driving! We are so thrilled that our house is within walking and biking distance to 3 playgrounds, 2 parks, and the library, though. Someday I hope to live somewhere that we don’t need a car, even if we do need to be creative and buy nice shoes. :-)

  • You know, if you had had a car, getting that train table would have probably been an item to check off the list in your errand running. As it is, you turned it into an adventure. And taking a train to get a train table? Perfect!

  • When our youngest child was small, he was also crazy about trains We took trips to see trains and ride trains, and bought him Thomas the Tank Engine wooden toys for presents. We even stayed in the Red Caboose Motel – all the “rooms” were old train cars.
    I grew up in a small city (no trains) and used to walk quite a bit. Now we live in the next county, where driving is necessary, and I’m quite tired of it. My husband grew up in a very small town, and is used to driving everywhere, and doesn’t seem to mind the hour drive to work (with another hour back home). However, we live at the lake -my husband’s dream – so we are exploring our options. I would like a small house in the city, and an even smaller cottage at the lake for summer weekends. We’ve thought about putting an RV at a lake, and then being able to travel with it, but that would mean buying a truck to haul it. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep working on getting rid of more stuff!

  • Love this post! Adventures are so awesome – I took one myself with the kids this morning, we rode the little bus over to Science World and even stopped at Tinseltown on the way home, all without a stroller for my youngest! The kids did great and they had so much fun, even if the weather is crappy here right now. Hope Henry has lots of fun with his new train table!

  • Definitely want the money shot of the train table set up at home. Don’t leave us hanging. Also, way to go on the adventure outing. I love the way you live the fact that life is all about the journey. You are inspiring.

    • Will try and get some in the daylight. He is loving it. And so proud of myself for the fun (and frugal) transport method.

      Was also a great day out because we are a bit lonely on our “avoid people and their germs” lock down post-surgery. Just a few more days to go and we’ll be back to play dates, nursery and classes.

  • I live more rural ish now and friends often marvel at the fact that we lived in downtown Toronto with two small kids. They think I’m kidding when I say it was, in many ways, easier. A boring trip to the passport office? No way, not when you take a bus, a street car AND the subway! ( and bring snacks of course! )
    Julie above hit the nail on the head I think when she said that you turned something that could have been a to do list item into an adventurous day out! I like the way she put it.

    • Thanks, Ab. I agree, at this age getting there should be half the fun. There is also a horse tram that runs right outside our flat in the summer. Henry is going to love it this year and it will be great for getting around without the stroller.

  • Everyone kept saying “I love this story!” and that’s exactly what I was thinking when I was done reading. We recently took our two children (ages 7 and 4) on our first big traveling adventure from Maine to Florida. We got a taxi from our home to the airport and the kids were so thrilled about the taxi ride and we hadn’t even started on our journey yet! Experiences are the best gift we can give :)

    • That is so cute. I remember taking the bus was really exciting when I was young. It was usually my older sibling taking me somewhere. Exciting stuff for a suburban kid.

  • Wow! I LOVE this story. What a wonderful adventure for the two of you (and so creative!!!). We have left the train stage in our house and I have gently packed them up for my future grandkids 😉 I miss it so much….enjoy it! My five year old son has now turned the train table into the LEGO table. This story was very inspirational, thanks for sharing!

  • What a sweet story :) I’m sure the whole experience was much more meaningful and exciting for Henry than if you’d just gone by taxi or car.

    I am hoping that when Oliver goes through the train-crazy stage, we can make special trips to Chapter’s and the Granville Island Kids Market to play with their train sets, instead of having to buy one. Am I naive to think that will suffice? :)

    • Depends on how train obsessed he gets. :)

      I was hesitant to buy such a large piece of furniture but we should get quite a few years out of it. It will be a good working surface for Lego/Duplo and other activities. We also don’t have any other toddler height surface for Henry in our home. Hope it sees a lot of use.

      • My sons are 5 and 9. Neither of them liked trains that much which was devastating given the amount we invested in Thomas. My Dad even built a train table for then.
        I was looking at it the other day and wondering where we can use it when we move. So, I’ve decided to paint over Thomas (maybe with chalkboard paint) and turn it into a cool coffee table that will hopefully grow with them into their teenage years.
        Lovely trip! Thanks for sharing.

  • I remember when we lived outside of London, my boys were young and we had no car. I would walk to town with one boy in a carrier on my front and the other in a pack on my back so we could catch the train to the city. We had so many adventures and we brought home some crazy stuff with us too! Such good memories :)

  • It looks like a great day! He’ll have many hours of fun with that train table i’m sure!! We’re also car free (but a family of 6) and I often thank my lucky stars that we’ve chosen to be ‘car-free’! :)

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