Father and 5-Year-Old Make DC Metro System Replica Using Toy Tracks

Alex was 3 years old when he started to memorize the names of stations on the Red Line

Five-year-old Alex Duan loves the D.C. Metro system. 

Alex can list the stations in order, recite rail car recordings by memory and identify train models on sight. 

So it was only natural for Alex's dad, Charles Duan, to suggest that they use wooden toy train tracks to recreate the system. The father and son built a full-system model of D.C.'s Metro system. 

“He’s been a Metro kid for a long time,” Duan said. 

Alex and his dad hunkered down in their D.C. home on a recent Saturday to lay out how the replica would work. Their model features junctions at Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza, and uses an assortment of toy rail cars from across the country. Alex knew exactly how it should look, his father said. 

“It was fairly fast. My 5-year-old would redirect the construction,” Duan said.

They used Metro’s official map to build a replica of the six lines that stretch into Maryland and Virginia, and Duan tweeted a photo of it that night. Greater Greater Washington posted the photos later that week.


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The family has collected wooden tracks and rail cars for years. They have replicas of trains on D.C.'s Silver Line, the L in Chicago and CSX freight lines. 

Alex was 3 years old when he started to memorize the names of stations on the Red Line, starting at Cleveland Park and ending at Union Station.

“He was so excited when we would take him to preschool,” Duan said.

The two took trips to the NoMa-Gallaudet University station to watch trains head toward and away from Union Station. 

“He absolutely loved it,” Duan said.

On a school field trip, Alex led the class in reciting a Metro train’s recording: “Doors opening. Step back to allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car. Step back, doors closing.”

In recent weeks, Alex tweaked Metro's map. (Paul Wiedefeld, take notice!) He added service to Annandale and the Costco warehouse in Northeast D.C., and connected the Blue and Green lines in Northeast D.C.

Alex is interested in other cities' transit systems too, especially New York's subway, his dad said. A trip to the city may be in order. 

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