The Christmas Train
Christmas has always been special. From the giant stocking I gave Trina when we began dating to getting engaged, this time of year holds a special place in our hearts. Shortly after we began having children I decided our decorations were missing something.
The first Christmas after our second daughter was born I decided what we really needed was a train to go around the Christmas tree. I had always wanted a model train and this seemed to give me the perfect excuse.
The problem is, whenever I get these types of ideas I tend to take it to an extreme. Rather than settle for a small train that goes in circles on a tiny track, I somehow justify in my mind that what we really need is our own railroad with switches, crossings, and of course cars filled with Christmas gifts.
When you start thinking in that way you quickly realize that a small HO scale train just won’t do. I mean it would look puny and insignificant putting a little train around a nine foot Christmas tree.
So while we were out shopping I went to a train and hobby store looking for something that fit with my vision of what a Christmas train would look like. I came home with a trunk full of track and equipment and began laying out the railway that would become a family tradition.
I began with an LGB train set from Germany. This is an indoor/outdoor train in the “G” Scale making it quite large when compared to typical model railroads. I loved the “G” Scale as it gave the train and its cars a lot more detail.
The engine is an old wood burning steam engine patterned after the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad that graced the Rocky Mountain region in the early years of the western expansion.
Besides the engine and tender the train also came with an open boxcar and a caboose. The boxcar was a dark red color and we filled it with small wrapped gifts for the train to carry to children throughout the rail line.
That didn’t seem like quite enough having only one car so I added a second rail car. This one is an automobile carrier that would hold two automobiles. And if you are going to get a car for Christmas it better be a good one so my automobile carrier holds two brand new Mercedes Benz sedans.
Now with the train set it was a matter of setting up the track. I could have just used the circular pattern that comes with the train set but who wants a train that just goes around and around?
I added three track switches and a couple of different sidecar routes to add some variation to the train’s route. I also added a stop point to back the train off the tracks or unload cars if I felt the need.
By the time Trina came home the living room was filled with train tracks with lights and crossings. When our family came over to visit and saw the massive train display that had overtaken the house and tree they simply shook their heads.
Well everyone except my grandmother. She thought it was wonderful and the next year for Christmas she gave me an entire Christmas village that she made from yarn and plastic canvas. It was perfect and included Santa’s workshop and even a barn for the reindeer.
Through the years as we have moved I have changed the track layout slightly and compromised to only take up part of the living room. The train and the village remain an annual tradition that the family looks forward to every year.
As the gifts are placed under the tree there are soon tunnels and bridges for the train to move in and out of adding excitement and fun to our little railroad. So while Trina still wonders aloud whether we really needed such an extensive railroad no one in the family can imagine our tree not having the Christmas engine carrying the boxcar of gifts and automobiles.
In a sense we have created our own Polar Express that keeps us centered on the magic of Christmas and the memories of our childhood.