Although model railroading enthusiasts are busy year-round, train gardens are often associated with the Christmas season and are a delight for families at the holidays. The Four-County Society of Model Engineers set up a seasonal display at the West Friendship Fire Hall for four weeks—just a half-mile away—but Roger and I attended yesterday, in the last 30 minutes of the event. Next year, we’ll know better. Not only was it still beautiful, I was blown away by how much model railroading has advanced in the past 10 years. (Roger’s photo is of one of the modules–looks amazingly realistic!)
My memory of our model train and the Christmas season is of the four of us children perched at the top of the stairs with a red ribbon tied across the top railing like police barricade tape. My dad, awake but not alert, would go downstairs alone, turn on the train and lights on the tree, and then come back upstairs to report that Santa had not arrived and we could all go back to bed.
Once released, we would fall over each other to get to the living room and the wondrous sight of the presents, stacked artfully under the tree, with the HO scale train chugging and whistling through tunnels of presents—no special houses, trees, or snow. Just train–a single engine, a few cars, and a caboose on an oval track. Magical.
When we grew up, it was my great delight to give my brother, who had inherited the train, some houses and cars to make an imaginary town. Around November, I was a frequent visitor to the model railroading shop in Mt. Airy, MD. Later, my sons had a Lionel train, but it’s out of commission because I don’t really understand the whole model train thing. I suspect I have not taken very good care of this small treasure.
At the fire hall, Roger began talking to the club members like they were old friends. How did I not know that he was a teenage model railroading geek? We watched the men (and a few women) work the trains along the tracks, laid out in modules. The trains are now run using a digital connection that looks a lot like a grocery scanner connected to a phone jack.
All this train information has led me to quiz my brother about his train set, call my mother about its origin and I plan to bug my father’s sister, Carol (expect the call soon, Aunt Carol), to learn more about the origin of my father’s Märklin train.
You’ll hear and read much more about trains. We’ll be podcasting and writing throughout the year. The Great Scale Model Train show is at the Timonium Fairgrounds February 4 – 5, and I hope to be there! Meanwhile, if you have photos of trains and the Christmas season, send them to The Yule Log so we can admire and share.