When I published the last edition of the “Great Libraries!” series, reader wrote in on Facebook to ask if I’d seen the train at the West Chicago Public Library. Was it a train table? A model train? A train made of Legos? Well, it was just too intriguing not to check out.
I knew West Chicago had strong ties to railroads. The city has a summer festival called “Railroad Days” and whenever I pass through the city, it’s clear that it has more than its share of railroad tracks and old brick depots.
But according to the city’s website, the town began to form in 1849 when a railroad line arrived from Chicago. By 1850, more lines passed through the area, creating the very first railroad junction in Illinois. As a result, the town was actually called “Junction” for about 45 years before becoming West Chicago in the 1890s.
OK. There’s some railroad history you can share with the train enthusiast in your life. But back to the library.
The train it turns out is a wooden structure in the Youth Services department that kids can play on and climb through. You can see a photo with this story. The sign says it’s for children 6 and under but it would probably most appeal to toddlers through age 3. My 2 1/2-year-old daughter certainly loved it.
Between visits to other parts of the library, she spent a total of about 30 minutes climbing through it and yelling “Choo Choo!” and trying to enlist other kids at the library to be the conductor or engineer. She’s honestly not even that into trains, but I realized what an effect “Thomas the Tank Engine” has had on her when she pointed to the front and said, “Mommy, where’s his face?”
The play area at West Chicago is smaller than those at the other libraries I’ve featured so far, but it’s cheerful, the librarians were very friendly and there is quite a bit to do packed in a small space.
There are a couple bins of toys kids can play with, two computers that have games good for preschoolers and two gerbils with a home on the librarians’ desk. There is also a wall with a few floor-level games mounted on it, including a felt board like the one that captivates my daughter when the librarians use it at storytime. If you want to work with your children on Spanish vocabulary, this is a great place to do it since nearly all the instructions and games are offered in Spanish, too.
Finally, if you’re child really loves trains, take a walk upstairs. There is a huge window that reaches nearly to the floor from where you can see a nearly railroad crossing. It’d be a great place for your kid to perch and watch trains come and go while you grab a chair and maybe – gasp – read a book!
The West Chicago Public Library offers a number of drop-in events and storytimes that are open even if you don’t live in its district. I include those in the Go West calendar, and of course they are featured on the library’s calendar as well.
The library is located at 118 West Washington St. It is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Of course doublecheck those hours before heading out.