Monday, August 22, 2011

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad

I love history. Especially local history. My boys love trains. I also love doing things together as a family with my husband and sons. My boys and I love reading, too. So, it was absolutely perfect for us that the Lapeer District Library rewarded my boys (and any other kids who participated) with a free pass to Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad upon completion of the summer reading program.

We do the reading program every year. For many kids, it's a good way to keep them reading during the summer months. My kids would already be reading, but this gives them the chance to earn prizes for it. It's merely a bonus.

This year, the prizes were great. The kids had to read 10 books on their own or have 30 read to them, and they had to check in at the library four times (different weeks) during the program. My kids read their required books in the first week or two, but they didn't stop reading. I even participated in the adult program, and while I didn't win any of the prizes, I still got to read some great books. It was nice to have "quiet reading time" with the boys every day.

After they were done, the kids each got a cool yellow T-shirt, they got to choose a free book, a free ice cream cone at Dairy Queen and a free pass to go to Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad on Aug. 13. Quite the haul for doing something they enjoy!!!

Aug. 13 dawned with some rain, but we waited it out and went after the storms passed, and we ended up with great weather for our visit.

Crossroads Village is a collection of historic buildings salvaged from the area and collected into, well, a village. There is an old school house, a train depot, homes, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, a gristmill, a cider mill, a barn, a chapel and much more. Each building is full of historical artifacts and there are people playing the roles of, say, the homeowners. You can go into the Buzzell House and the women will tell you about life "way back when." Out back, in the yard, there is an actual garden with vegetables growing as if someone was really living there. There are farm animals in a pasture near the barn. The blacksmith works in his shop, showing visitors how it's done. At the sawmill, from time to time they'll start up the old machinery and saw some logs into boards.

There are working hand pumps the kids can try out.

At the school house, there are swings.

In an old barn, they had a broom shop, and Logan got to try out a handmade broom. He wanted to come home and make one of his own! Hmmm... This could be a good thing!

There is a building with an elaborate setup of model trains. Hubby had to hold Jordan up to see it, and he didn't want to leave that building!

There are gift shops where you can find fun things like old-fashioned toys. The boys each got a wooden flute to play. They were only $1.99, not a bad deal for a working musical toy! The kids love playing tunes on them!

Anyway, It's just a fun place to explore and learn about how things used to be.

Of course, for the boys, the highlight of the adventure is the Huckleberry Railroad train ride.

We've been on the train ride a number of times. Every year, we go for the Halloween event and the kids get to trick-or-treat through the village, play in a big strawbale maze and ride the "ghost train." It is SO much fun!

They also have special events for Christmas though we've never gone for that.

Back to the train...

We have never before had the opportunity to ride in the caboose, but this time we got lucky. It was great!

Cabooses are Jordan's (and my) favorite part of a train. They're just so neat! So, we climbed aboard and had a seat for the 40-minute train ride.

I discovered the conductor also rides in the caboose, and after the trip, Logan and Jordan each got a chance to sit in the conductor's seat. They thought it was pretty cool.

They also got to climb up to the top seats for a peek out the high windows.

The train trip wasn't included in the free pass, but I think it was worth the money for how much the kids enjoyed it. The trip goes through the woods, along Mott Lake, and across a couple regular roads, which the kids found exciting. Little fact: The name Huckleberry Railroad came about because the train went slow enough that people could jump off, fill a hat with the huckleberries that grew wild along the tracks, and jump back on the train to enjoy their snack.

We visit Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad a couple times a year. I love that there is a place like this within about a half hour of our house. It's a special outing for history lovers, train lovers and families. I remember visitng there on field trips as a schoolkid, too.

I'm sure we'll continue to visit Crossroads as the boys grow. Perhaps we'll visit for Christmas this year. I hear the lights are pretty spectacular!