Kids & Trains: A Connection TV Can't Ignore

Kids and trains have always been connected at the soul. There's just something magical, majestic and probably a little mysterious to kids about entering an enormous steel bullet, meeting friendly conductors and interesting passengers, and staring at the quaint little towns whipping by on the other side of the glass.

So it's no wonder that trains play such a big part in kids' media culture. The latest show to pull out of that familiar station is Chuggington, a computer-animated series about three young locomotives. Launched in Britiain in 2008, it premieres in the U.S. on The Disney Channel on January 18.

Chuggington joins Thomas & Friends, Choo-Choo Soul, I Love Toy Trains, and (the shrewdly-conceived) Dinosaur Train on the kids-and-trains TV track. But what is it really about trains that so captivates young minds, especially those of little boys, and calls them aboard?

Maybe there's just something compelling about large anthropomorphized vehicles (did we ever really need them to transform into clunky robots?). Or maybe it has to do with a sequestered community of quirky individual personalities. Or with travel to places unknown or unsure... like round and round a large table.

Even in the Harry Potter movies, the train plays a strong supporting role. If Harry, Hermione, and Ron routinely took a bus to Hogwarts, something would be lost for sure.

Whatever the draw is, my own children are not immune. In face, we're taking a train tonight from my New York office to home in New Jersey. They call it an adventure. I call it my commute.

You can be sure that, as long as there are kids, there will be old-school trains both on TV and in real life to delight them. At least until I start jet-packing home.

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