CINCINNATI -- All Aboard! Holidays and model trains seem to go hand-in-hand, thanks to nostalgic memories of childhood and new generations of kids to introduce to the magic of the rails.
“Holiday Junction” at the Cincinnati Museum Center, featuring the long-popular Duke Energy trains, is the most prominent example, but it’s just the tip of the local iceberg. Here are other model train displays that can be enjoyed around the Tri-State.
For the 24th consecutive year, Covington’s Behringer-Crawford Museum in Devou Park brings back its “Holiday Toy Trains” display crisscrossed by more than 250 feet of track. It uses everything from Lionel and American Flyer models to Plasticville trains and Thomas the Tank Engine. The display has more than 30 interactive push buttons that bring scenes to life with a train whistle, a flying Santa, lights, doors and even a fire truck. Volunteers and train engineers are around to answer questions.
This display is a holiday add-on, separate from the museum’s permanent model train exhibit, created by train enthusiast Ray Faragher, which portrays a miniature mid-century city with replicas of Covington businesses and landmarks. It’s decorated for the holidays, too. (The museum offers more than trains, by the way: There’s a gallery dedicated to vintage toys, a display of Department 56’s Charles Dickens Victorian London buildings and a collection of miniature room scenes and period furniture by the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts.)
At the north end of the Tri-State, you’ll find EnterTRAINment Junction in West Chester Township (Tylersville Rd, I-75 Exit 22), which calls itself “the only railroad-themed family entertainment center on the planet.” EJ features an immense year-round display of G-Scale trains using 2,000 cars, each one roughly the size of a loaf of bread. They run through three historically themed areas on two miles of track featuring more than 100 hand-built bridges, tunnels and trestles. (An admission fee is charged for the year-round display; parking is free.)
Through Jan. 3, EJ is offering its free-admission seasonal exhibit, “Christmas at EnterTRAINment Junction,” with three displays in a huge expo center; a Lionel train O-Scale display originally exhibited at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis; a miniature HO-Scale train display featuring Department 56 buildings and villages; and a “winter wonderland” backdrop for another G-Scale exhibit created by members of the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society.
If you’re in Downtown Cincinnati the weekend before Christmas, look for a special exhibit at the Public Library at 8th and Vine streets. On Dec. 19-20, the enthusiastic volunteers who make up the Cincinnati Northern Model Railroad Club will set up their 10-by-17-foot modular layout that has won awards at local and national model train shows. Using miniature HO-scale trains, they have created an authentic replica of a rail line that once connected Franklin, Ohio, to Jackson, Michigan.
History Of Cincinnati Northern
Cincinnati Northern became a subsidiary of the New York Central Railroad in 1902, but the club’s layout envisions what the railroad might have become by the 1950s had it evolved into a more extensive independent railroad. Their display replicates a specific setting in the quaint Northwest Ohio town of Paulding, approximately 150 miles north of Cincinnati.
The CNMRR has been around for 50 years, according to member George Roos.
“Our members are historians, architects and engineers," Roos said. "The early members were guys who loved trains but couldn’t build something individually. So they started this club.”
For many years they operated at the Glendale Library; today the club is based in two classrooms in the old Ross High School in Hamilton, where they are working to complete an extensive permanent exhibit reflecting the railroad’s path from Franklin to Van Wert, Ohio. CNMRR’s members are devoted to education, and their portable display on view at the library affords some opportunity for hands-on operation by visitors.
A Railway Museum
If trains fascinate you, there’s one more stop you should consider: the Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati in Latonia. It’s a chance to see some real train engines and cars, not models. Serious collectors have assembled 80 historic railroad locomotives and cars on a four-acre site. It’s a hands-on, self-guided experience of historic trains, described as “a rugged railroad yard environment.” Visitors can check out passenger and freight train cars, from locomotives and Pullman passenger cars to diesel engines and boxcars, flatcars, a refrigeration car and several cabooses. The collection spans the first half of the 20th century — there’s even a “post office car” from 1912 — in various states of repair, some restored and some works in progress.
IF YOU GO:
Behringer-Crawford Museum: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1 - 5 p.m. Sunday. Devou Park, 1600 Montague Road, Covington. Admission: $9 for adults, $5 for children, 3-17. 859-491-4003; bcmuseum.org.
EnterTRAINment Junction: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon - 6 p.m. Sunday. 7379 Squire Court, West Chester. Admission: $12.95 for adults; $9.95 for children, 3-12. 513-898-8000; entertrainmentjunction.com.
Cincinnati Northern Model Railroad Club: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Dec. 19, 1 - 5 p.m. Dec. 20. On display at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, 800 Vine St., Downtown; Free admission.
The Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturdays year-round. 315 W. Southern Ave., Covington. Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for children age 10 and under. cincirailmuseum.org