My Day at the New York Historical Society
by Humbi R., 8 years old, Manhattan
Here I am at the New York Historical Society, a place where I am going to write an article on the Historical Trains and on the Battle of Brooklyn. First we checked in at the desk to pick up our credentials. We watched the trains on tracks suspended above us. Straight ahead was the NYC exhibit with its see-through model train dome in the middle. I got up in the middle and saw the blue comet, very impressive as always, in front of Grand Central Station.
There was also a very impressive Union Pacific 2-4-2 with Pullman cars also. [Momterruption: Steam engines are designated by numbers corresponding to their wheel configuration. “2-4-2” means that the engine has two smaller leading wheels in front, followed by four steam-powered driving wheels, with two trailing wheels behind.] We saw the New York-Philadelphia Flyer on the Hells Gate Bridge, which is that arched steel bridge you can see from the RFK Bridge. Technically the Flyer wouldn’t have been on the Hells Gate because that’s the bridge to Boston, but it sure makes for a grand display! On the other side, my grandma spotted an early orange switcher diesel which ran the switch route from New York to Philadelphia with Pullman cars that were orange, my favorite color.
Around the corner toward the gift shop, there was another moving display. I was excited to see the German trackless train that they had running in the ice tunnels, especially the bullet-nosed one. When those models were new, they ran on real steam! I loved the screens all around the display showing the trains chugging around the room. It really helped me see all the intricate details.
As we went back to the main room, I saw a Union Pacific engine running overhead. But most important of all, I saw the famous Rainhill trials locomotive, the Rocket, designed by Robert Stephenson and his father, George. We saw some very early wooden trains in the display cases in the main room. All the other antique trains were made mostly of tin. I liked the California Zephyr locomotive but, the Blue Comet is my favorite.
After the train show, we went down to the permanent exhibits at NYHS’s Children’s History Museum.
The stairs down to the Children’s History Museum are like a time machine! Life-sized pictures of different people in New York history the wall along the staircase, starting with a firefighter from 2001 and going all the way back to the Labe people of Manhattan before European colonists arrived. I had plenty of fun creating my own baseball team of legends to face the legendary 1955 New York Dodgers. They also had a fun exhibit about childhood in New York a hundred years ago, including how the Children’s Aid Society used to put street kids on trains to the country to be adopted by farming families. And don’t miss the interactive games featuring everyone’s favorite Secretary of the treasury, HAMILTON! (P.S. if you look in the cases along the wall on the main floor, you can see a replica of the dueling pistols used by the fool that shot him.)
After some fun downstairs, we went up to the Battle of Brooklyn exhibit. It was amazing! There we examined the movements of troops at the cool animated and interactive map. We discovered that rain and fog delayed the British reinforcements allowing the main body of the Continental Army to flee to safety on Manhattan. They also had several important and famous documents, including Thomas Paine’s famous book Common Sense, that changed the minds of many loyalists. I stood by a musket which was taller than I am, and got to see George Washington’s camp cot. There was also a lot of beautiful artwork that you could get really close to, so you could see the brush strokes! Just remember not to touch it!
But one thing you can touch is the interactive Then and Now map. You could touch a site from the Battle of Brooklyn, and it would give you the current street view at the same location. [Momterruption: looks like a field trip is in order!] It was really cool to see pictures of Brooklyn with hills and trees and farms. The modern-day view helped me picture where the Continental Army was and how far they had to go.
Some people might think a museum is a place where they put old things so people can stand there and look at them. But not the Historical Society! Their exhibits make you feel like you’re walking back in time, and you can touch and look at things, and get close enough to understand what happened. You’ve gotta go there!
For more info, go to www.nyhistory.org
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Thank you, NYHS!!