Dad sends son's favorite toy train to space


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APTOS, Calif. — This isn't a typical story about a boy and his toy train.

This is a story about a train and his boy, and a father who brought the train to life and launched it into space.

Jayden Fugelseth and his toy train, Stanley, are "inseparable like Calvin and Hobbes," according to Jayden's father, Ron Fugelseth.

"He's been attached to him since he was two, and they play, sleep and do everything together," Fugelseth said on YouTube.

Fugelseth had previously made a short video about Jayden's attachment to Stanley, and told Mercury News he was inspired to take it a step further when he saw a high-schooler's video of a LEGO man sent to space.

"I figured if two high school kids can send a Lego man to space, then I, as a grown man, can make Stanley to space," Fugelseth said.

He rigged Stanley and a camera to a weather balloon, along with an old Boost Mobile phone that could relay GPS coordinates and pocket warmers so the electronics' batteries wouldn't freeze. He took the required safety precautions, and then had to try to keep Jayden enthusiastic about the project.

"'He said, 'You're going to lose Stanley?'" Fugelseth said. Stanley had been lost before, though, so the 4-year-old's father was not too concerned about having to find a Stanley number 10.

A note on safety:
via Ron Fugelseth on YouTube

"First off, I called the FAA 15 minutes before launch (per their instructions) so they could make sure no planes fly into the flight path. I read and followed all their rules for weather balloon launches. It had a homemade radar reflector, and a 3 foot parachute.

"Second, the box was only 2 pounds and made of foam core, with a wooden dowel to hold Stanley in front of the camera. I spent two months monitoring the winds ... to pinpoint the general area that he would land. For safety, I launched him from a location that I knew would bring him down into farm land. The prediction website was only 5-10 miles off, so he landed safely in a corn field, far away from any towns.

"I didn't want Stanley to be a murderer. Plus I wanted to make sure my son got Stanley back. :)"

Stanley wasn't lost, although the cellphone stopped working for a period of time. After rising 18 miles in an hour, the train fell back to Earth in 20 minutes, landing in a cornfield some 27 miles from the launch site. It took two days to track the train down, at which time Fugelseth woke Jayden and let the boy find his train.

Fugelseth said Jayden told him "I wish I could be a train, so I could go in space."

The father edited the footage and animated Stanley's face with Adobe After Effects and Photoshop to "bring him to life how I imagine my son sees him," then posted the video to YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 1.3 million times since Thursday.

"It's kind of overwhelming," Fugelseth said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure."

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Stephanie Grimes

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