The trains of Christmas

January 01, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY


Watching model trains roll, chug and steam along can make anyone feel like a child, regardless of how many years or decades ago one was born, Blaine Snyder believes.

His theory was borne out Saturday when people of all ages gazed in wonder at The Trains of Christmas, a 23-train, four-story display set up at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum off South Burhans Boulevard.

"It takes me back to when I was younger," said Mike Shoop, of Chewsville.

While growing up Shoop would watch trains go past on a set of tracks behind his house, and he now has several videos about model train displays.

"I could just watch them over and over again," he said.

Shoop brought with him to the display his 12-year-old son Brian and his 3-year-old daughter Emily.

"Oh, I think they were really interesting," Brian said, adding that his favorite train might have been a red and white Western Maryland freight train.


Emily was entranced, too.

"She has a girl's train set up under the (Christmas) tree this year," said Shoop, who still lives near the same set of railroad tracks as he did while growing up. His daughter carries on the train-watching tradition.

"She hears one now, she runs to the picture window and watches," Shoop said.

Along with the trains, the display features a ski slope model, cars, bridges, a farm and barren snow-covered trees. Buildings include a radio station - complete with a tower topped by a red flashing light - an old-style McDonald's restaurant, a school, a fire house, a 7-Eleven, bank, lighthouse, hospital and many others.

Engines on the O-scale display include Lionel, MTH, Williams and Weaver.

Snyder said it takes about 3,000 hours to set up and dismantle the display, which is designed differently each year. The first Trains of Christmas display was in 1990.

"This is our fantasy railroad (from) when we were kids," said Bill Knode, who, with Snyder, is co-chairman of the display. "This is what we wanted. We had to wait a little while."

Snyder said he and Knode both became enamored with model trains when they were about 8 years old.

"Hagerstown is a railroad town," Snyder said. "My dad would take me out along the tracks and we'd sit and watch trains."

Snyder and Knode sat in a darkened area of the room housing the display, running the trains by adjusting the voltage and amps needed to operate them. They also used eyedroppers to put oil into an engine, which then created a steam-like effect.

People of all ages sat on benches lined up in front of the display, watching the trains. Children grinned, pointed and exclaimed at times, including when the room's lights were turned off.

Chris Simpson, 28, was seeing the display for the first time. He stood in a corner and leaned forward to peer closely at the different trains as they passed.

"I've been into them since I was a little kid. I find them fascinating," Simpson, of Columbia, Md., said.

Simpson said that sometimes advertised model train displays can be disappointing. Not this one, though.

"I was pretty impressed," Simpson said of the display. "It's nice to see a big display. This one's huge and has a lot of trains running, which is the important thing."

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