Kids today do not have the same opportunities of my '50's childhood in developing a life long passion for trains and model trains. Model Trains magazine was a great educational tool (and how exciting to get $1 for a modeling tip). But there are still many things a child can witness which may coalesce into that fervor which lasts a life time. Some things I did as a child which can still be done:
1. Rode a commuter train a few times with my father; and made several train trips of a hundred miles.
2. Watched many commuter trains arrive and depart at a magnificent (but closed suburban station). Some kids today can be in the station for that.
3. Was in awe of many tracks and streamlined trains in large terminals.
4. Watched freight trains being made up in a yard.
5. Saw a traveling exhibit of a great model railroad (B&O), still on display annually in Cincinnati.
6. Visited friend's Lionel and American Flyer layouts, replaced my Marx set with HO at an early age, made models, and frequented all the hobby shops.
7. Read train and model train magazines, and took every book out of the library on these subjects. (Through an online search, I recently replaced a book I had as a child with 3 foot pull out illustrations of locomotives.)
8. Took pictures of trains and stations.
I did not visit a railroad museum until I was past childhood, but many of them today display the beauty of the locomotives and equipment of bygone eras which had a hold on me. Some of them operate, too ! Of course there is a wealth of great videos today surpassing what I saw on film as a child.
Some children exposed to all of this will find they learn in years to come about history, architecture, mechanics, electricity, engineering, industrial design, model building, and fun. They may well get memories of cab rides, dinner in the diner, and taking a train to Grand Central station to meet a special lady beneath the big Kodak sign--even as they recreate a bygone era in their basement !