Tuesday, December 23, 2008


My husband loved trains. He was given his first electric train set when he was one year old! Naturally, it was his father's hobby more than his for the first 8 years of his life, but every year his parents would set up a train under the Christmas tree. Christmas and trains became entwined for my husband as they did for many boys of his generation and we had a train layout under our tree every year while our kids were growing up, too. Christmas was always my husband's favorite holiday.

When he was older and able to operate the trains himself, his father created a huge permanent layout down in their basement that included buildings, roads, tunnels, mountains, and miles of track. My husband had great plans to re-create such a layout in our garage after he retired. He had bought the wood to build the table and it was all cut to size and had holes drilled for bolts. It was to be in sections so that it could be set up and taken down after the holidays. (My car was to be booted out onto the street for the duration.) He joined a local model railroad (toy train?) club and had two of his engines converted to operate by remote control so he could run them on the club's tracks. He bought himself a brand new engine which arrived just months before he died. He never got to enjoy it.

The last Christmas that we had together, I admit that we went overboard on the decorations. It was almost as if we knew. Until then, my interest in the trains was minimal. My brother had a layout in his bedroom when I was young and I still have a small scar on my chin where I fell on the wrong end of a piece of track. But I enjoyed watching them go round and round and certainly enjoyed watching my children enjoy them. That year we discovered Department 56. The train store where we went to buy accessories had an entire room devoted to Department 56 products. These houses and buildings are made of ceramic and don't necessarily have to accompany trains. Many people collect them. Naturally, I had to have the New England Village series of buildings and I also bought every little figurine they had that was related to music. If you take a close look at the figures in the photos, you will see that they are all playing a musical instrument.

My first Christmas alone, I set up all the decorations that my husband had so neatly stored away, everything being carefully labelled. But my son-in-law set up the train for me. I didn't have a clue how to do it myself. I took a lot of pictures of the trains and the village with the snow and the birch trees that reminded me of home, and cried buckets. For the next two years, I travelled to Arizona for the holidays and didn't put up any decorations except for a wreath on the door. But this year, I decided to have Christmas at my house again. It's time. I managed to get the tree set up (it's artificial) and after much searching found the lights. But I didn't know what to do about the train. I thought I could set it up, but didn't think I could get it running. After spending three days on this, I finally got the Blue Comet to move last night! I am not crying this time. I feel satisfied and content. I'm glad that I have all these treasures to pass on to my two grandsons.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. I know you probably have traditions of your own. Thank you for letting me share mine with you.


  1. We love you mom, and this year we will get to share the joy of all these beautiful trains with you. We did not set up our train this year so it is going to be great to see your set up.

    love DIL AZ

  2. Both grandsons will get to enjoy it!