When moms, dads and kids come through the door, they are all greeted by the same question... “Do you want to make a train puppet”? Thousands of families have agreed that making make a train puppet would be just the thing at Ralph Lee’s Train Workshop Studio at the New York City Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx, a hands on family activity at the famous New York City Holiday Train Show.
Since 2013, streams of children have been making working models of an antique steam engine, while singing songs about the “...little puffer bellies all in a row...” and “Working On the Railroad”.
The NYBG has set aside a small room, where for a few weeks each winter, puppetry, song and community arts and crafts mingle to inspire all ages as they create a choo choo train play station and a temporary art environment that grows and changes daily.
Is this hard to imagine? It is certainly hard to describe! There are a number of nuanced and fluid activities all going on at once, yet in an orderly fashion. Orchestrating the flow and feel of the room are the Station Master and the Musician. These two costumed characters are dressed in overalls with the archetypal “brakeman’s” requisite bandanna and blue tick cap, a uniform of dubious authority... so mild that it could almost be janitorial. These two manage the room to keep Ralph Lee’s Train Station running smoothly.
As the musician, I play concertina, autoharp and sing train songs. I also curate the walls, continually adjusting the art to make sure there is always room for the next train to fit on the painted tracks that run around the walls past the farm, the town, the hills, the mountains and the desert. I also lead the hourly train parade where the young puppeteers dance their trains on a musical procession down the line.
Have a listen to station master Kristina and myself as we perform an Old-Time tune with Anglo concertina and Turkish spoons.
Edited by Jody Kruskal, 16 February 2018 - 11:36 PM.