TOY TRAINS – An Interactive Holiday Tradition at the Main Library

All Aboard! San Francisco Public Library Holiday Train on View December 5th through January 10th

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The San Francisco Public Library is bringing back its annual interactive toy train display, All Aboard: San Francisco Public Library Holiday Train, featuring beloved toy trains based on children’s literature. Now in its fourth year, the electric toy train layout features the Polar Express, from the book by Chris Van Allsburg, Thomas the Tank Engine, from the book series by W. Awdry, and the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter book series. The trains will be on display in front of the Fisher Children’s Center, Main Library, Second Floor, December 5th through January 10th.


Throughout this interactive exhibit, young visitors can “power” the Lionel O scale replica trains by pushing the buttons that activate each engine along the 35-foot-track. The buttons also activate ski gondolas, a Ferris wheel, tiny sledders and village lights inside the plexiglass-enclosed exhibit. Large buttons, with easy-to-read signage, make the display readily accessible to young children. To coincide with the exhibit, a large variety of the library’s beloved train books will be displayed and available for checking out.




Why do children like trains?  “I know why I’ve always liked them,” said Carla Kozak, SFPL’s children’s collection development specialist.  “They’re cool! They make great noises, clickety-clacking down the track, or blowing their whistles. The engineers and conductors wear cool uniforms and wave to people watching the trains. They have powerful engines, cute cabooses and fun names, and they can carry people and lots of other stuff all over the place.”



“In one case,” said Ms Kozak, “a girl traveled by train as piece of mail. (See the book, Mailing May by Michael O’Tunnell, based on a true story.) “And of course, trains lend themselves to being anthropomorphized! The classic one is the Little Engine that Could, but the very popular Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends have been following in that Little Engine’s very big wheel prints.”

When children are done pushing the train display buttons, they can look for these favorite train books in the collection:
 A Train Goes Clickety-Clack – by Jonathan London, illustrated by Denis Roche
Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo – by Kevin Lewis, pictures by Daniel Kirk
Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing! – by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
Trains – by Lynn Curlee
I love trains! – by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Shari Halpern
Trains – by Gail Gibbons
Hey Mr. Choo-choo, Where Are You Going? – by Susan Wickberg, illustrated by Yumi Heo
C is for Caboose: Riding the Rails from A to Z – by Traci N. Todd, Sara Gillingham, Chronicle Books, and Steve Vance
The Little Engine That Could – retold by Watty Piper with new art by Loren Long
Inside Freight train – by Donald Crews
I’m Taking a Trip on My Train – by Shirley Neitzel, pictures by Nancy Winslow Parker
Mr. Putter & Tabby Take the Train – by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
Black and white – by David Macaulay
Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away – by Virginia Lee Burton
Down by the Station – by Jennifer Riggs Vetter, illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz


The annual holiday train display is the work of Roberto Lombardi, the Library’s Facilities Director, and his staff from the Facilities Engineering Unit. Over the course of the exhibit, it is estimated that the trains will travel more than 200 miles on the tiny tracks.


The Main Library is located near Civic Center plaza at 100 Larkin Street (at Grove, near Market). The annual holiday train exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information, call 415-557-4277.


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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:


Telephone: 415-846-2475




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