Holiday Wonders That Click, Clack, Run – Imagination Ignitors

Experiments are a way of learning things. They require self-guided trial and error, active exploration, and testing by all the senses. Experiments begin with important questions, questions that make you think or that inspire you to create. So perhaps it’s questions that we collect.

Visitors are in for a treat.

The annual Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop train show features Gilbert American Flyer locomotives and rolling stock set up inside the museum – the trains run on weekends through Jan. 14. Special exhibit days – Tuesday, Dec. 26 and Friday, Dec. 29, noon to 5 p.m. For additional information on visiting and the build-it workshops, visit Admission is free; donations welcome. Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

Wooden trains to construct and take home; $10 for materials.

“A.C. Gilbert purchased, redesigned and produced American Flyer trains relatively late in his career. It was also relatively late in the history of American railroads. Airports and highways were reshaping American geography. Gilbert’s trains recollected past power and glory of rail. Gilbert’s trains recollected the power and glory of his life. Our Holiday Train Exhibit will follow that journey.”

Workshops are offered year round at this exceptional place that is both a workshop for exploration and a museum.

“A hundred years ago, a young Yale graduate, A.C. Gilbert welcomed a new epoch of power. He included in the Erector Sets he produced in New Haven electric motors, electromagnets and light bulbs. He built Connecticut’s first radio station. He even built cloud chambers to allow young experimenters to track atomic particles. The museum has redesigned classic electrical experiments to preserve their simplicity and excitement in a world whose components are growing invisibly small and incomprehensibly complex. Each year our students connect 10,000 batteries to 8,000 bulbs and light emitting diodes and 5,000 motors. By 13, they are adding microchips.” – from a description of one offering at Eli Whitney Museum & Workshops.

“An impressive number of very young children visit. They take one look at our tools, materials and challenges…the same tools and materials of Brindley and Whitney – and announce with clinical precision: this is how I was meant to learn.”

Model train installation at the Eli Whitney Museum (2007) Tom Murphy VII.

“We are a workshop: we build things. We are a museum: we collect things. We collect essential experiments. We also collect the materials that experiments require. We collect tools and clever ways of building. We collect curious and gifted apprentices who can help experimenters get started.”

After your visit (or in conjunction with it), why not explore East Rock Park, the distinctive outcrop that provides such a dramatic backdrop to the area. The 427-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The U.S Geological Survey adds more possibilities to an extended outing in the area:

“A field trip to Connecticut would be incomplete without a pilgrimage to the Yale Peabody Museum in downtown New Haven. The museum’s star attraction is the ‘Great Hall of Dinosaurs’ which displays Othniel Charles Marsh’s Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and controversial ‘Brontosaurus,’ and the great mural, The Age of Reptiles, by Rudolph F. Zallinger. Equally impressive is the ‘Hall of Mammalian Evolution’ which features Zallinger’s other mural, The Age of Mammals. The museum also exhibits artistic nature dioramas and displays featuring plant fossils, meteorites, primates, mammals, and a regional minerals…

“To get to the Peabody Museum take Exit 3 off Interstate 91 onto Trumbull Street connector, and follow the signs to the museum located on the corner of Whitney Avenue and Trumbull Street.” (Parking and admission fees.)

An overview of the area with points of interest. USGS

East Rock Park contains a geological wonder. Image is linked to state park site maps and information.

“The city of New Haven developed around a natural bay in the Connecticut shoreline where the Central Valley meets Long Island Sound. The Pleistocene glaciers helped carve away the softer sedimentary strata of the Connecticut River Basin, creating valleys between the higher, more erosion-resistant volcanic rocks that crop out in the Central Valley and the older metamorphic rocks of the surrounding Highlands. To the north and west of downtown New Haven is West Rock Ridge State Park, a park encompassing a great Jurassic diabase sill that intruded into the Late Triassic red beds. To the north of downtown, volcanic intrusions of Jurassic age crop out along the West River and Quinnipiac River valleys. These volcanic escarpments are responsible for the scenic landscape preserved in East Rock State Park and nearby Sleeping Giant State Park (located about 8 miles north of New Haven). Hilltop overlooks in any of these parks provide exceptional views of the Central Valley, the southern end of Metacomet Ridge to the east, mountainous uplands in the surrounding Eastern and Western Highlands regions, and an expansive view Long Island Sound.”

The annual Connecticut River Museum Holiday Train Show, is ongoing through Feb. 19, 2018. The work of artist Steve Cryan is on display in the fully operational 26-foot model train layout. Scavenger hunts and display included in admission to the museum. Located in Essex. Call (860) 767-8269 or visit

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” ― Walt Streightiff

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