Trains displayed at rail museum for the holiday

November 27, 1994|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

The Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum has opened its holiday show of trains that range in age as well as gauge.

Four of the five train gardens at "The Oldest Railroad Station in America" have Christmas themes of 1863, 1934, 1954 and 1994. The scales of the gardens range from O to G -- the sizes of the train sets. O-scale trains are smaller than G-scales.

Ed Williams, director of the museum for almost three years, has been planning since July with his cadre of volunteers for a holiday offering that began this weekend and runs through January.

Mr. Williams, 48, estimated that half the museum's 20,000 annual guests visit between Thanksgiving and Jan. 31.

After touring the museum, most children would choose 1863 as a significant time in American history -- and not because of the Battle of Gettysburg.

"That's the year Santa Claus was introduced. Thomas Nast of Harper's Weekly created the fat round man with a red suit and a workshop that made gifts for children," Mr. Williams said.

Before Nast's creation, Christmas was an ethnic stew of secular and religious paternal figures such as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and St. Nicholas.

Children who visit the telegraph room will receive a personalized telegram from Santa's shop in the North Pole.

The train gardens of 1934 and 1954 are in the superintendent's office. 1934 is an important year to train enthusiasts because that's the year train gardens began.

The 1954 train garden, done in O-scale, has more of a whimsical treatment. It has an aluminum tree lighted by a color light wheel, plenty of plastic and a Santa Fe Silver Streak train.

"It's a classic from the '50s," Mr. Williams said. "This is the beginning, I guess you would say, of modernism taking over Christmas.

"It's the year everybody got rid of their real Christmas tree and got an aluminum one.

"A few people are going to chuckle. I hope we get a few laughs."

The 1994 garden is in the main waiting room and done in G-scale. It has Thomas the Tank Engine and other characters familiar to readers of the children's books and viewers of the PBS show.

The final train garden in the tool room combines nine different O-scale trains running at three levels with animated objects such as construction equipment and playgrounds.

The Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum, 2711 Marylan Ave. in the historic district, will have its holiday train gardens from today through Jan. 31. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and $1 for children 5 to 12. Information: 461-1944.

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