Thursday, 16 April 2015

What Do Trains Have to Do with Crochet?

Traffic warning sign - yellow diamond with silhouette of steam train.

Many people like to crochet (or knit) while travelling on trains.

Further to an earlier post about trains, I am continuing the theme to reflect on what makes a good pattern for travel and investigate train-themed projects; but before I do that, I have some photos to share of a recent encounter with steam locomotives.

Last month, I had a lovely day with my family and the steam locomotives at SASMEE Park in Millswood, South Australia. SASMEE stands for the South Australian Society of Model and Experimental Engineers of which my children's great grandfather was a founding member and past president. 

Model American style steam locomotive named "Yosemite Valley Railroad Jofesine No. 9" with its engineer.
"Yosemite Valley Railroad: Jofesine 9"
American-style steam locomotive and engineer.

British style locomotive, black with gold letters: L M S, releasing steam.
British-style locomotive "LMS 5037"

Three SASMEE members with their locomotives. 
It is the meeting place for enthusiasts of model-making, small machine tools, experimental engineering connected to modelling and tool making.  SASMEE Park displays a variety of steam engines–stationary engines and locomotives. 


Boating lake showing three remote-controlled watercraft.
Boating lake

The members have built and maintained working model railways of various gauges for running their locomotives and also a boating lake for remote-controlled water craft.

One of two stations in SASMEE Park. One train is pulling out of the station with four passengers while another steam locomotive is at the platform awaiting passengers.
A model diesel locomotive is pulling out of the station,
one of two stations at SASMEE Park.
Meanwhile a steam locomotive is in the station preparing for its next journey.

Twice a month, SASMEE Park is open to the public for a very reasonable fee where families can picnic within the garden setting and enjoy train rides. It is a favourite with families, exciting for the 'littlies' and very popular right now as a venue for children's birthday parties. We saw at least 3 party groups while we were there.  

One of the open areas at SASMEE park with lawns and picnic benches shaded by tall gum trees.
One of the lawn areas–perfect for picnics and play.

The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny with a refreshing autumn breeze with plenty of shady places to shelter from the sun.  I thought you might enjoy my photos (from my phone because I didn't think to take the 'proper' camera) to get you into the train spirit.

Model American style steam locomotive coming out of a tunnel. The loco is named "Yosemite Valley Railroad Jofesine No. 9"  travelling with two carriages loaded with passengers.  The full-scale 'real-life' suburban railway lines can be seen beyond the fence.
'Jofesine 9' with passengers emerging from a tunnel.
The railway lines beyond the fence belong to the full-scale suburban rail system.

Do you ever crochet on public transport?

I almost always do, unless the journey is extremely short. I used to work in the city and I loved my 'train time'.  It was uninterrupted time to think my own thoughts, organise my day (or week) and catch up on some reading or crafting.  One cannot do those things when driving the car.

The train is a much cheaper and more relaxing option than driving into the city.  Now that I tire easily, the train allows me to travel safely without the worry of a fatigue-induced traffic accident!

Model of a diesel locomotive pulling two carriages full of passengers.
SASMEE Park has locomotive models of all shapes …

Small-gauge steam locomotive with engineer and three passengers.
… and sizes!

What makes a crochet project suitable for transit?

Model diesel locomotive with engineer and passenger on carriages.
Model of the "Overland"
diesel locomotive.

These are my criteria–it has to be (or have):
  • small and easy to fit on my lap or stuff into a medium- or small-sized bag
  • easily memorised, such as a simple pattern repeat or substantial sections of 'even working', perfect for crocheting when carrying on a conversation
  • a pattern that doesn't require constant counting
  • easy to navigate–easy to find one's place after interruptions or having stitches accidentally ripped out
  • a minimum of pattern notes or none at all
  • barely any accessories to carry
  • ideally one skein of yarn to be carried at a time (maximum of 2 small skeins)
  • non-precious materials–in case of loss or damage in transit

Small gauge locomotive - a very blurry photograph because the loco was moving too quickly!
Even the smallest locomotives can pull a remarkable amount of power. 
Look at this one go!  It was too quick for my camera.

Green steam locomotive steaming up with carriage attached. In the background are two carriages for a larger locomotive.
Steaming up!

Do you crochet in transit?  

What are your favourite travel projects?

Boating lake in foreground with remote-controlled model steam ship.  The 'Jofesine No, 9' locomotive is pulling passengers in the background from left to right - the railway tracks round around the edge of the lake.
Model modes of transport.

Here are some train-themed projects and ideas that I have come across:

The second station at SASMEE Park with water tower to the right and working signals in the foreground. Passengers are lining up on the left hand side of the building and the platform is to the right of the building.
People lining up to board from the second station at SASMEE Park. 
Once through the park gate, people can ride as many times as they like for free.
With so many locomotives running at once, there isn't long to wait.
Behind the 'Amgoorie Tea' water tower and beyond the lawn, one can see the brown railway lines of another branch of the suburban 'metro' rail system.

Steam locomotive 'LMS 5037' pulling two carriages full of passengers.
Steam locomotive "LMS 5037" with passengers.
It is so much fun to wave at the 'littlies' as they go past.
My children turned their faces the other way because they knew I wanted photos 

(or perhaps they were embarrassed by their mother's enthusiastic waving)!

For more train projects, just enter 'train' into the pattern search field on Ravelry. Today I found 77 crochet and 158 knitting patterns.  Free crochet 'train' patterns can be found on Ravelry here:

Three trains racing around the lake.
Have you ever heard of 'railway knitting'? That's another name for tricot which has also been called 'shepherd's knitting', 'Scottish knitting', 'tricot ecossaise', 'idiot stitch', 'afghan stitch', 'afghan crochet' and 'Tunisian crochet'.

Locomotive 'Jofesine No. 9' steaming away along a curved stretch of rail.
Bye! Bye!


Links & References

Lupey Loops, "Training the Transport Department", blog entry, 10 April 2015:

Ravelry pattern search 'train':
Use Ravelry's search filters from here to find exactly what you want. 

South Australian Society of Model & Experimental Engineers (SASMEE), Millswood Crescent, Millswood, South Australia:

Even though electric and diesel locomotives are in use today,
Australia continues to use the steam train silhouette
on its road signs because it is such a unique and instantly identifiable shape.


  1. Totally love the pics. I love riding on model trains.
    I knit a sock on the train from Frankfurt to Florence many years back. Socks are the best cause if it is a plain sock the pattern is in my head and they are very small and portable. I have knit lots of socks on planes too.

    1. I agree with you! Socks are very easy once the rhythm of the pattern is in one's head. No matter what the foot size, once you know the formula, you don't need to carry a pattern. Even when my ageing grandmother was going blind, she was still able to knit a sock.
      What is your favourite sock pattern?
      Where did you ride on model trains? I wonder where else in the world that people can do this.

  2. Very interesting post and pics with these trains models. Well, I don't need to drive or take a train to go to work sometimes to go to Paris so I'm doing as you do : easy pattern, not heavy in the bag, like some granny squares or a knitting hat also ...

    1. Well, Géraldine, it seems all great knitters and crocheters think alike! :-)
      Do you live and work very far from Paris? How long would that train journey take you?
      Now I am trying to imagine sitting on a train viewing the French scenery.
      Cheers! :-)

  3. I love the train pics, reminds me of a similar place in Devon we used to visit when on holiday as children. I rarely travel by train, usually only for my Lupus appointments at the Lupus clinic in London but when I do, crochet is a must and definitely something easy. Sharon x

    1. How lucky you are, Sharon, to have had such a train experience as a child. I do hope they are happy memories for you.
      Do you need to travel far for your lupus clinic appointments? I hope the journey itself isn't too taxing. I find travelling over longer distances quite exhausting and am not sure how much is caused by the actual travel movement itself or the exposure to sunlight while out and about.
      May this message greet you while you are having a good day. xx

  4. We grew up catching the train to school, to uni, to work... I could never understand the people who chose to drive/be driven to these places which were so accessible by public transport! I am so glad we've moved back to a train line! I would never have passed uni without the train time to do my assignments, and reading on the bus or the train to get to work was one of the best parts of the day :) I've not done a lot of crafting on the train, but definitely lots of reading!!

  5. For efficiency, nothing beats the train - none of the time and monetary costs of finding and paying for parking in the city either. The train is also very accessible and safer for wheelchair users.
    Even though you haven't done much crafting on the train, Michelle, how much of that reading was about crafting, hmmm? I wonder! :-)