All Board

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. Later Lionel 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!

Great Train Expo

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Puyallup Fair and Events Center Puyallup, WA US 98371

Since 1984, features 100-200 exhibitors displaying all scales of model trains, new, used and collectible model trains. See many operating model railroads, workshops, door prizes and trains for you and your kid’s to operate.
3,000 Attendees

Santa Train

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

North Carolina Transportation Museum Spencer, NC US 28159

Santa rides the train, passing out oranges and candy canes, a Southern Railway tradition. Storytelling of classic Christmas tales and an ornament-making activity are also part of this event.

The Santa Train

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Coopersville and Marne Railway Train Coopersville, MI US 49404

Everyone loves Santa and Santa loves kids. Each of our vintage passenger cars has a special seat reserved just for the Big Guy and his friends. Santa’s Elves will help escort each child for their time to sit and visit and every child will get a nice gift from one of Santa’s Elves! Plus, listen to stories read by local celebrities.

Greenberg’s Train and Toy Show

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Richmond Raceway Complex Richmond, VA US 23222

Exciting train layouts, children’s attractions, free clinics by hobby experts, test track and door prizes. Huge marketplace for trains, parts, accessories, collectible toys and hobby books.

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Santa Cruz, CA US 95060

Ride vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, as they roll through city streets past homes of Santa Cruz. Sing along to seasonal carols while sipping hot-spiced cider, listen to musical entertainment, and enjoy a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Continue the merriment at Santa’s Kingdom at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Choice of one activity: “Holiday” miniature golf, laser tag, or arcade games, is included with Holiday Lights Train ticket price.

Santa Trains

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Nelsonville Depot Nelsonville, OH US 45764

Ride with Santa on the train! The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway’s popular Santa trains will pull out of the Nelsonville Depot during the most festive and jolly time of the year. Enjoy the on-board narration of Christmas poems and festive music. To top it all off, Santa visits with each child on the train and one of his elves provides a special candy treat for each child. Make this year’s Christmas season a memorable one. Each year these trains become more popular. To ensure a seat for everyone in your group or family, be sure to make a reservation.

Polar Express Excursion Train

Dec 15, 2012

Tennessee Central Railway Museum Nashville, TN US 37210

Hop on the Polar Express! Watch Tennessee roll past your wide sightseeing window at scenic level aboard one of TCRM’s special excursion trains. Our streamlined coaches feature air-conditioning, large sightseeing windows, and comfortable seats. All seats are reserved at no extra charge. Relax and experience travel by rail, where getting there is part of the fun. Takes place on Saturdays.

Holiday Lights Train

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Roaring Camp Railroads Felton, CA US 95018

Ride a beautifully lit holiday train through Victorian Santa Cruz as you sip hot spiced cider, listen to carolers and travel to a surprise meeting with Santa Claus. Reservations required.

Holiday Train Garden

Dec 15, 2012

Fire Museum of Maryland Lutherville, MD US 21093

Join kids of all ages for a 1950s “O” Scale Train Garden. Watch the trains wind their way through the Baltimore area in a completely rebuilt Christmas Garden – a Baltimore City Fire Department tradition. Open Saturdays in December, and December 27 – 29, 10-4 pm.

Toy Train Christmas

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Northern Pacific Railway Museum Toppenish, WA US 98940

Toy Train Christmas is intended to bring back the days of old when toy trains were common around the Christmas tree. The first Toy Train Christmas in 2005 included 9 fully decorated Christmas trees and each had a toy train around it. There is a full range of electric trains in operation from the smallest Z gauge to a large garden scale layout. A 7 1/2″ scale live steam model of NP 1364 is on display. Trains range from very old to new models. One room is all Lego trains in operation with an opportunity for kids to work on their own design.. There are a number of hands on activities for the kids including crafts projects and toy trains designed for younger children to operate. The short caboose ride from the depot to the “North Pole” to see Santa is a child’s delight. Festivities included hot chocolate and cookies. Optional photographs with Santa are available.

Santa Claus Trains on the Hobo Railroad

Dec 15, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012

Hobo Railroad Station Lincoln, NH US 03251

Santa Claus Train departs Hobo Railroad Station. Santa has a gift for each child. Hot chocolate and cookies included with ticket.

Maria can be reached directly at or visit her website at
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