Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Old trains, new trains, black trains, blue trains -- all stand ready to take visitors on board at a very special Depot Day at Travel Town.

by  Jeanne Bonfilio
Issue Date: 11/2006

Climbing on trains and Caltrans trucks was the activity of the day at this special event for kids and adults alike.

Taking rare tours of the insides of real, vintage train engines and boxcars at Griffith Park’s Travel Town in Glendale wasn’t the only thing that kids got to climb into during their annual “Depot Day” on October 15.  Caltrans External Affairs and Maintenance personnel were also on hand with a giant Caltrans equipment truck ready to take on visitors.  Allllllll aboard!

“Depot Day” at Travel Town is a unique opportunity to see antique trains of all shapes and sizes that are also available for riding, climbing or just looking at and learning about their storied pasts.  Smaller train rides leave the depot area every ten minutes for a fun trip around Travel Town.  After the rides, children and their parents and friends strolled among the big train cars and engines that have been collected and restored by the Travel Town curators over the years. 

Caltrans and other agencies set up safety exhibits among the extraordinary train cars. And with the help of Maintenance Supervisor Boyd Mitchell, crew members from the North Hollywood yard arrived early and eager to lend a helping hand.  Landscape Maintenance Worker Joi Stewart, Equipment Operator Mike Rodriguez and Supervisor Matt Klasen helped set up Caltrans’ huge, inflatable orange cone bearing the SLOW FOR THE CONE ZONE safety slogan.  Excitement was evident and ear-to-ear smiles were plentiful as soon as the children heard they could climb -- with Caltrans’ help --  inside a real freeway truck!

Stewart, Rodriguez and Klasen took turns helping the children safely in and out of the gigantic truck for an up-close-and-personal view of the inside cab of one of Caltrans’ largest vehicles, technically known as a 3-yard dump truck.  Honking horns and laughter filled the truck cab, train whistles filled the train depot and fun was had by all.  “It was an especially nice time helping out with the kids and their families,” said Stewart.  “And we were able to answer a lot of questions, too.”

Making a special appearance was “Sir Topham Hatt,” a character from the train cartoon and book series, “Thomas (the Tank Engine) and Friends,” who was perfectly portrayed in costume by Caltrans’ own Television Specialist Steve Devorkin, an active volunteer and member of the Travel Town Foundation.  “There are few places as special as Travel Town," said Devorkin, "where kids can come to pretend and imagine what it was really like to ride in these massive, old trains. This event brings attention to the history and importance of the railroads, helps to preserve these amazing trains and sure is a lot of fun as well.  And what’s interesting is that the grown-ups are just as excited to be here as the kids!  I know I am!” he said.

Representatives from “Operation Lifesaver” were also on hand providing train safety messages and safety videos; and harmonizing with his wife, “The Singing Cop” offered up fun and catchy tunes to the kids about good health and safe habits, including a special seatbelt safety song. 

Inside Travel Town’s Transportation Museum is a collection of interesting, old vehicles including fire wagons, fire trucks, milk wagons and automobiles.  On weekends, a glass window opens onto a working miniature train scene, complete with towns, cars and tiny people.  Travel Town also has picnic tables, a snack bar and a gift shop, full of train-related toys, clothing and costumes. 

Caltrans thanks Travel Town for their kind invitation.  “Depot Day” at Griffith Park: another perfect way to educate and interact with the communities Caltrans serves. 

Maintenance Workers Mike Rodriguez and Joi Stewart (both seated), speak with visitor at the Caltrans information table at Depot Day.  Public Information Officer Jeanne Bonfilio assists.  Left to right: Maintenance Worker Mike Fernandez, Television Specialist Steve Devorkin in costume as 
Sir Toppam of Hatt and Landscape Maintenance Worker Joi Stewart -- all helped to make Depot Day a special day for Caltrans, too! The gigantic Caltrans equipment truck is ready and willing to take on visitors, with the help of Joi Stewart and Mike Rodriguez from North Region Maintenance.