After three days of public school in Madrid, things are going well, according to Sons 1 and 2 (neither of whom has more than rudimentary Spanish). Most teachers are nice, and at least one is both “loud and funny”—the hallmarks of good pedagogy, according to S1. It’s the art teacher who has the makings of an ogre, with his unexpected shriek at students whose parents had not yet purchased the textbook. (The next day I stood in line at the bookstore for over two hours; it felt like all the parents of Madrid had seen their children similarly terrorized). S2, who’s twelve, delights in newly-learned Spanish vulgarities. S1 (fifteen) observes the thoughtfully-placed ash-can at the gate for students who light up before or after class. Not that he has any use for such a convenience.
Suddenly aware that childhood is ebbing, and nostalgic for more innocent pleasures of yester-year, I rounded up my ducklings and prodded them into the Museum of the Railroad. Who does not love a train?
The Railroad Museum is located in the old Delicias Station. When it opened in 1880, Delicias was the largest station in Madrid. Rooms opposite the platform contain pallid collections of railway clocks, model trains, and other hunks of metal that might appeal to rail buffs (one adult visitor wore engineer overalls!), but the trains themselves exert a magnetism that is impossible to resist. Engines that once traveled the rails of Spain wait at the platforms, ranging from an 1864 English steam locomotive (John Jones Company) to diesel trains of the 1960s. U.S.-made machines include a 1923 steam engine (American Locomotive & Co), a 1949 Talgo II (American Car Foundry) and a 1954 diesel train (American Locomotive & Co).
Visitors may enter the Talgo and test the comfort of its passenger seats; we may also climb onto a coal car, or peer through the windows of a furnished carriage from the early XX c.: silver tea service, thick drapes, plush bedding, private washrooms, and perhaps the ghost of Hercule Poirot.