All the males in our family are adults, but all of them are still enamoured with the electric train set.  Sadly somehow, the original set was lost in the midst of a move or a cleaning frenzy and for quite a few years, there was no train under our tree.  My brother got a replacement set for my Dad a few years back, and since then it has grown into a semi-permanent display in their home. But it truly reaches its pinnacle of beauty and fascination during the Christmas season.  Once the tree goes up in the middle of the train board, it seems to complete the scene.  It is especially magical at night when the tree lights send a warm and colorful light down on the field of white “snow” and the little houses are lit up along the “Main Street”.

The evolution of the scenery came along in stages, some purchased, some assembled from kits and some built from scratch.  In years past, the infrastructure of the board was measured and built and the track assembled and affixed to the board which was placed in front of the picture window on a seasonal basis only which then evolved to a permanent display in front of the picture window where the Christmas tree is placed each year.  Next came the blanket of soft cloth snow with strategically placed folds and curves that create snow drifts and hills. This year flocking snowflakes were added to give a frostier and more realistic effect. The ice-skating pond is a mirror top with snow flocking on its edges and skaters gliding gracefully while others lace up their skates to join them.  The houses are a set of old Americana-style homes and businesses that tease you with their warm lights, begging you to look through the windows to see if anyone is home. Rounding the bend, the steam locomotive passes under a tressel bridge fashioned from a metal Erector set from yars past and revealing a festive Santa themed billboard at its exit. Frosted evergreens and fences define sections of the town where adults and children go about their preparations for the holidays.

“Going vertical” has added a new dimension to the display this year. Dad built a ski-slope mountain to give height and character to the landscape. He artfully sculpted the exterior to give it a realistic craggy look and mechanically reinforced the inside to stand the test of time, which took precision and patience to make it fit just right. This required an additional support section that allowed the track to be lengthened and directed through the mountain’s tunnel.  Atop the mountain, a Lego castle and a Lincoln Log farmhouse are perched and overlook the town below. After the Christmas season is over and the tree is taken down, it will be time for the train board to become a plant display and Dad will move his indoor plants to catch the morning sun and the train will travel through “jungles” of greenery and flowers. Some of the pots will take residence on the new mountain and will have the best view of the warm sunlight above and their leafy neighbors below.

Last night, the boys (I mean men) turned on the train and were instantly transported to the world of fantasy as they watched it round the track.  Smoke liquid was added to enhance the reality. The headlight lit the track and emerged from the darkness of the new tunnel with a triumphant “whoo-whoo” wail from the steam engine sound effect.  Their eyes sparkled in the low light as the tree’s star sent stained-glass images dancing around on the ceiling in the same way as when my brothers were toddlers in PJs. Smiles spread from ear to ear as they were mentally projected into the scenery and wondered about the potential stories and possibilities within that microcosim of fantasy. It was great to see them all share this experience and to share in the boyhood imagination of the moment.  Talk turned to plans on how to further enhance the scene for next year and pleasant memories of train sets of their past.  They shared, they laughed, they played.  We all need to play more!

Follow this link to see the train in action:



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