Beginning to look like Christmas in toy train land

November 20, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

The sound of metal wheels running on tracks, the smell of smoke puffing out of the locomotives and the sight of car after car chugging by.

"When it comes to trains, everybody's a kid," said Blaine Snyder, one of five Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum members who updated the model train layout for this season's Trains of Christmas.

The O-gauge layout received approximately 6,000 visits last holiday season, said Bill Knode, museum spokesman.

Visitors cram into the room, lined up against the near wall to watch the exhibit, which stretches about 8 feet high and nearly fills the room. Museum volunteers run one set of trains, then another set, then turn the lights out and run trains across dark, snowy landscapes and through towns illuminated by streetlights, house lights and tiny Christmas trees.

Children sometimes sit on the floor to watch the entire show, as it takes at least half an hour.


Knode said the 12-foot-by-30-foot layout has close to 1,000 feet of track, maybe more, and involves 23 trains, including 32 locomotives, 46 passenger cars and 300 freight cars. There's a new trolley, similar in style to those that ran from Hagerstown to Frederick, Md., in the early 20th century. The trolley track is extended so the trolley now loops around the layout rather than just going up and down a short stretch of mountain.

Returning are favorite scenes and train cars. These include the fire hall, where a firetruck pulls out to respond to a call, and the Galloping Goose, a hybrid locomotive made by adapting a car, truck or bus to run on a railroad. The real Galloping Geese ran in the 1930s and '40s; they carried people, freight and mail to Colorado mining and lumber areas where roads didn't reach, Knode said.

New models this year, include:

Burlington Zephyr. One of the first streamlined passenger trains, the silver train served the West, such as Chicago to Denver, from the 1930s to 1960s.

A 30-foot refrigerated train pulled by the Union Pacific Big Boy. One of the largest locomotives ever built, Big Boy is an articulating steam locomotive with 24 wheels. An articulating locomotive has two sets of drive wheels, allowing the front of the locomotive to turn sharp bends ahead of the back.

Nickel Plate Road. The real locomotive for this train was in the Hagerstown Roundhouse in the 1970s. It had a one-time special route from Chicago to Hagerstown.

Two Shay locomotives, the gear-driven locomotives designed to pull logging train up steep inclines. Shays operated on the Western Maryland Railway around Elkins, W.Va., in the 1940s and 1950s.

There also has been new scenery and buildings added to the layout. Frost University and the governor's mansion are among the new buildings.

If you go ...

WHAT: Trains of Christmas, a large, holiday-themed O-gauge, model train layout

WHEN: 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Friday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, March 1

WHERE: Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, 300 S. Burhans Blvd., Hagerstown

COST: $4, adults; 50 cents, ages 4 to 12; and free for ages 3 and younger

CONTACT: Call 301-739-4665

MORE: Some videotapes of the 2007 Trains of Christmas program are still available at the museum for $10.

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