At the moment I am excited by small things. The greatest of which is my wee son, and of course, playing with his train set. Which is really for me.
A while back we bought the K-mart wooden train set. It was cool, but I got bored quickly and discovered an electric train that runs on the same rails, for $15: the Hape Brave Little Engine. I bought it and it changed my life.
The Brave Little Engine is indestructible. Ours has been chewed on, forced across concrete, thrown in a bucket of water and across the room, eaten toddler hair and ripped through so many rechargeable AAAs that my little man knows all about unscrewing battery compartments with precision screwdrivers and charging batteries with USB. I cannot sing the praises of our Brave Little Engine enough; a masterpiece of precise and clever German engineering. It’s mindless chugging forward with its one on/off button makes getting the track right a constant challenge, and makes hanging out with the little fella mentally stimulating for me, not just him.
As you overload the trailers, hang duplo off it, see what gradients it can climb, hang magnets off the wheels, bash it through obstacles, and your kid leaves it running into the wall for hours until the batteries die, the once brilliant grip slowly grinds away to nothing.
Eventually even the most pathetic of obstacles and gradients will leave your Brave Little Engine valiently spinning its wheels. It’s diminished ability, it’s shadow of early glory, reminds you of your own degrading mortality, and it’s also boring. You must repair the grip.
I searched for overpriced bespoke solutions and new tire grips, but after-market parts for a $15 train are understandably unlisted.
In the end, I cut some strips from semi-industrial grip tape and stuck it on. And provided your kid isn’t still chewing on everything, it works like a charm. As the train initially pulled more than it had ever before, I was euphoric. The tape wears down a bit over time but it’s still better than polished rubber and plastic.
Recently we liberated some wooden ramps from family. Even with the grip tape the Brave Little Engine was slipping again. It’s a lesson in traction really; it just needs weight on the back – but I don’t think my little guy will allow bluetacked fishing weights just yet. So I put some grip tape on the ramps too, and now there’s no stopping us.
I hope this post finds another desperately bored Mum or Dad and helps them revive their Brave Little Engine and keep on track.
Tomorrow’s after-work job is to see if I can get the Brave Little Engine to reach the coffee table, provided I can distract the boy sufficiently from dismantling the track as I build it – but that’s all part of the fun.