So many people ask me how I got my idea for this story. I tell them the inspiration came from my son, Cole, who was about 4 years old at the time.
My little boy (he was little then) became a train fanatic when he saw his first electric train when he was fifteen-months old. From then on he lived and breathed trains. Consequently, we made lots of trips to ride tourist trains, and to various train museums all over the US. He loved trains and I began to love them too. My little boy’s love of trains taught me so much about them, how they work, their history, and so much more. Over time, we began to have a deep appreciation for steam trains and their amazing history.
At each tourist train, or train museum, there was usually a gift shop and sometimes in the gift shop, there would be a little train storybook. Soon, though, we had read all of the train stories we could find, so one day, I told Cole I would write a train story for him and I would dedicate it to him on the dedication page. I really meant what I said, but I didn’t realize how important that was to Cole, because after that, every time we would buy a book and I would open it up and start to read it to him (even if it wasn’t about trains), he would ask me, “Mommy, did you write this one?”
I think about two years passed and Cole hadn’t forgotten what I had said about writing a train story. I realized that if I didn’t write that story like I had said I would, my name would probably be “Mud,” and decided it was time to write. I knew that I would write about the different train cars and different things about trains, because every time Cole and I had to stop at the railroad track in our town to let the train go by, he would tell me the names of each kind of car and what it was probably carrying (not just any six year-old does that).
As Cole recited the names of the cars while we watched the train go by, I would reminisce about times when I was a little girl watching the train go by from the back seat of my parents’ car and how I loved watching the trains go by. Watching as an adult, I would think how much more fun it would have been for me if I knew what Cole knew about trains; if I knew what each train car was called and could imagine what load it might have inside. As I sat watching each train and listening to Cole tell me the names of the cars, I knew the book would be about trains, train cars and the loads they carry. Since kids love learning about color, I thought I’d make it a book about a colorful train, too.
One night, after I had tucked Cole into bed and read him his story, I wrote a poem called Engine Ed’s Colorful Train. Out of the poem, came the storybook a few nights later. All in all it took about two weeks to write and refine what is now, Engine Ed’s Colorful Train. It was such an amazing, fantastic feeling to have a book come out of me that almost wrote itself. Truly, I think Cole wrote it for me all those times he would tell me about the train cars. He was, without question, 100% of the inspiration for the story.
What I love about Engine Ed’s Colorful Train is the reaction I have gotten over the years after it was published. I have readers tell me that it’s their child’s favorite book, how they take it to bed with them or make their parents read it every night. I have mother’s of daughters tell me it’s their daughter’s favorite book, so I began to realize trains and love of trains isn’t just for boys. I have teachers write to me and tell me it is one of their favorite books to read to the classroom and that our educational games on our website entertain the kids while helping them learn. Trains are universal. There is something enchanting about trains.
To this day (he’s going on twelve-years-old now), Cole and I take his dune buggy out to the tracks behind the walnut orchards and wait for trains. We look for old railroad spikes; have a picnic and sometimes, when we’re really lucky, we see the train go by. Sometimes, we imagine what it would be like if it was really Engine Ed!