Father and son send toy train into the stratosphere

Maker dad Ron Fugelseth and his 4-year-old son sent the boy's favorite toy train eighteen miles up into the stratosphere aboard a weather balloon outfitted with an HD camera and salvaged cell phone for GPS. Then he made this lovely video. (Thanks, Kelly Sparks!)



  1. That was very cute and cool.

    Was the train’s face CGI? It seems too small / simple a toy to do all of those expressions. (And look appropriately sad while starting its fall.)

    1. That’s no toy.  It’s a life form that has infiltrated our world and hidden in plain sight.

      Not shown is the tense drama as it manipulates the poor child to bend the father to its will.  Its goal: return to space, and its homeworld, where it will be greeted as a hero.  The father subverted its plans by neglecting to install proper life-support systems.  I was looking forward to the part where the alien’s eyes hemorrhaged in the vacuum of space, but the balloon broke too soon.  Now it wants revenge.

      1. Unfortunately, I would be extremely overprotective. When confronted with a child or small animal, I have a strong urge to neutralize all potential threats in the vicinity.

        1.  It depends what “extremely” means or “neutralize” (not in the C.I.A. sense I hope). Anyway,  don’t write it off just yet. Not that people need kids to define themselves. That’s not a healthy way to frame a life.

          1.  Speaking as a former parent of small children (they are now 18 and 26), the urge to neutralize any threat to them, in the CIA sense, was very real.

          1. But only if the child smelled similar enough to Antinous’ genetic line. If not he’d be driven to exterminate it instead.

  2. that kid has a future in movies – he’s so adorable my teeth hurt. what a great idea, and a great (now & future) gift for his son.

  3. How unbelievably cool! I wish my dad was that involved with me. Most parents I knew just let the TV raise their kids back in the day.

  4. Cute video. Though the headline should read “Father Comes Up With Concept, Father Comes Up With Idea To Make Video About The Concept, Father Works Up The Specs, Father Builds Apparatus, Father Sends Boy’s Supposed Favorite Train Into Stratosphere, Father Edits Video, Father Posts Video” – it’ll be fun to see the full Pixar workup in 18 months. As it stands the video is in desperate need of a sincere Tom Hanks narration and a rollicking Randy Newman score : )

  5. That’s all good. But you should know, Percy pulls the mail on time. Which if you think about it is probably more important to the residents of Sodor than some space program. I’m sure it made the kids day. Those trains chuff day in and day out.

  6. i see “x launched in space” videos pop up more often now, good.

    my question is: how easy is it to get on good side of FAA (or your country’s fly-or-no-fly agency)…?

    It would suck if this kind of activity required a time-prohibitive amount of red tape to cut through.

    1. It would suck more if one of these balloons took out an airliner.  At some point, the “cute” factor fades out and the “irresponsible” factor comes into view.

      The National Weather Service launches weather balloons, but it has procedures to coordinate with Air Traffic Control and to avoid launching into the flight path of an aircraft.

      Mr. “Send $RandomObject into the stratosphere” — not so much.  

      1. http://www.stratostar.net/faq/ 

        Seems to suggest that as long as you’re launching something fairly small and are not launching projectiles from it (gliders etc), there is nothing to disallow you from launching Things On Weather Balloons.

        My guess is that unless you’re letting these things go in front of a busy airport, the chances of having a plane/balloon collision is exceptionally small.

      2. During the launch and recovery sequences, notice the radar reflector between the payload and the balloon. Seems unusually responsible, actually.

      3. A lot of people do this and from the instructions I’ve read online, these folks are doing pretty much doing what many others have done: reclaimed cell phone, extra-large balloon, strong helium (you can see from the tank he has– the stuff they sell at WalMart or use at clown parties isn’t good enough), etc. So anyway, this is happening fairly often and I agree, I’m surprised it’s considered safe. 

      4.  He did notify the appropriate authorities 15 mins before launch to ensure nothing would be anywhere near.

    1.  To the first question, yes. Which is why I guess he launched in a ruralish area. Notice the landing was in a corn field.

    2. If you read the description it describes the 3ft parachute, max weight of 2lbs, and the fact that he used weather/wind prediction to drop it into farm land.

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