Trains and Christmas are an association that goes back quite awhile. Maybe it was the Lionel company, maybe it was some inventive toy store designer, maybe it was just meant to be; whatever the reason, that association has delighted young and old for many, many years. In truth, the story goes that Lionel never intended to make trains as a product line but they made the trains as a promotion to draw attention in store windows for their other product(s). However the promotion made the trains the item that people really wanted to purchase. So, around 1900, Lionel went into the train business. Lionel later encouraged stores to use the displays of their train products under the store Christmas trees and to encourage people to purchase trains as Christmas gifts. It is a wonderful union that has endured over 100 years.
Trains were always a tradition at Christmas in our house. The process would begin the same way every year. First, a visit to the local train shop to buy something new. It might be a building, a freight car or on a rare occasion, it could be a new engine. Then my mother would clear off her sewing table and turn it over to my older brother and his trains. Next came the design and building of the train "village." My brother was always kind enough to let me participate. (If you knew my brother and his hands-off policy about his trains, you would know that it was a monumental gesture). The job that I was given was to set up all the accessories. This definition included the trees, the people, the street lamps, etc. Those of you familiar with train sets on flat platforms know that "accessories" can be a very thankless job. Once the train starts, accessories look more like dominos in one of those Guinness Book of World Records contests. It didn't take me long to realize that this was not a grand gesture at all on the part of my brother but a subtle way for him to torture me and not get in trouble. Still, to this day, I have a soft spot in my heart for trains at Christmas.
So this week I have highlighted a real life way to experience trains at Christmas without having to set up accessories. My list of events encompasses a few train displays for the nostalgic among us (myself included). But it also includes actual train rides with Santa on actual trains. These are family-friendly experiences. These are a wonderful way to bring the experience to life and give your kids a lasting memory of trains at Christmas on a "true to life" scale. Most of these are simple train rides, but I chose them because they are family events that can be very low key. Not all the loud usual happenings associated with events, but a slower, more personal experience for you and your family.
As always, the events I have highlighted are taking place across the U.S. If none of these are nearby where you live, please use the search box to find events taking place in your backyard. Only a few more events days until Christmas!