Toccata For Toy Trains

Toccata for Toy Trains is a 1957 short film by Charles and Ray Eames, one of several films (including Powers of Ten, made many years later) the husband-and-wife design team made during their career.

Toccata for Toy Trains is also the title of the instrumental music composed for the film by Elmer Bernstein, a frequent collaborator on the Eames films.

The film features mostly antique toy trains moving within fanciful settings to a toccata. Other antique toys, such as dolls (representing passengers and townspeople), automobiles and horse-drawn carriages are featured.

Most of the toys come from a mix of museum and private collections, including that of the Museum of the City of New York, and apparently date from before the 1920s. The film is shot from a toy's-eye-view, as if the viewer is following the journey of trains from two cities, beginning with the busy activity of the departure train station and surrounding downtown neighborhood, traveling across the countryside, and ending with trains pulling into the arrival station.

A short opening narration by Charles Eames, set in a roundhouse, extols the design merits of toys, especially antique toys, with their "direct and unembarrassed manner", versus scale models. Eames says the modern era has lost the art of toymaking in the attempt to have "a perfect little copy of the real thing".

Famous quotes containing the words trains and/or toy:

    The complaint ... about modern steel furniture, modern glass houses, modern red bars and modern streamlined trains and cars is that all these objets modernes, while adequate and amusing in themselves, tend to make the people who use them look dated. It is an honest criticism. The human race has done nothing much about changing its own appearance to conform to the form and texture of its appurtenances.
    —E.B. (Elwyn Brooks)

    Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)