Metrolink is Southern California's regional rail system linking several counties. The 15-year old system with 7 lines, 54 stations, and 388 route miles serves over 40,000 passengers in the Southland. Metrolink says its mission is "to provide the people of Southern California safe, reliable and environmentally friendly commute option." Sure, but can it also serve as an interesting venue to host a 4-year old's birthday party?
One birthday boy in particular loves trains and is a fan of a popular TV series featuring trains. His mother told me that their family trips were often planned around using rail transit to get to destinations in Central and Southern California. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than to invite his friends -- accompanied by parents of course -- for a trip on a commuter train? Children that age are probably more used to birthday parties where they are entertained by clowns or magicians. Would these children, growing up in Southern California's car-centric culture be entertained at a party where the view through a train window was the main attraction?
The mother who organized the party said that the toughest part about planning the party was figuring out a route. She wanted to plan a round trip of about two hours that did not require changing trains. The Metrolink representative she called had some difficulty understanding this unusual request but eventually they decided on a route: board an afternoon Metrolink train at Anaheim in Orange County, go to Los Angeles Union Station, and then take the same train back to Anaheim.
This was one train you could not afford to be late for. Miss the train and you miss the party. Everyone arrived at Anaheim station well in advance. The Amtrak and Metrolink Anaheim Station is about three miles east of Disneyland and just across the parking lot of Anaheim's Angel Stadium. (Map)
Our small group of 12 children and accompanying parents waited for the train. The children were very excited and cheered when the train finally made its dramatic appearance.
When we arrived back at Anaheim, the children did not want to leave the train. Getting everyone in our group off the train before it departed again was a close call. Reluctant children had to be persuaded. Extra pizza was distributed to other passengers before we exited the train. Then we counted the children. Then we counted the children again.