Express Train Show rolls into Fairfield Museum
During the three years I worked at the Fairfield Museum and History Center (www.fairfieldhistory.org), I was always mesmerized by any of our new exhibitions. But no exhibition captured my spirit along with the magic and wonder of this special season like the annual Holiday Express Train Show.
As always, this year’s show will open on the night of the annual tree lighting ceremony and the date will be Dec. 6. Opening hours will be from 5 to 8 p.m., according to Museum officials, “to give families with young children the opportunity to visit the Holiday Express Train Show before or after the tree lighting!”
For opening night, the admission to the Museum is $3 and children 5 and under are free. Family four packs will be $10. The train show will run from Dec. 6 through Jan. 5, 2020. The Museum’s web site has the full train show schedule.
The Holiday Express Train Show is put together by a group of wonderful volunteers from the Connecticut G-Scalers Club, The Housatonic Model Railroad Club and Central Connecticut G-Gaugers. Over my three years at the Museum, watching these volunteers in action was always amazing for me. Usually within a day, they transform the Museum’s auditorium into a magical wonderland of large and small trains, traveling through snow-covered miniature cities and towns. Outside the auditorium, the museum usually uses one other area for a smaller train exhibit.
In an article interviewing model railroading enthusiasts by Tema Silk of WNPR public radio online, Ms Silk quoted John Sacerdote, an enthusiast from northern Connecticut, who spoke about shows like Holiday Express. “Miniature locomotives chug along miniature — known as scale — miles of miniature train tracks surrounded by miniature towns and miniature countrysides. I have friends that have a layout that’s probably two times the size of this.
Another model railroading enthusiast, Kaylee Zheng, a mechanical engineer, interviewed by Ms. Silk, said, “It takes many kinds — electricians, contractors, historians, artists — to construct these complex layouts.”
Ms. Silk pointed out that some 25,000 model train enthusiasts annually attend a railroad hobby show in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Sponsors for this year’s train show include Brody Wilkinson P.C. and People’s United Bank and, according to the announcement, Christine O’Shea of Driftwood Farmhouse has decorated the Museum for the holiday season.
As the train exhibit got underway and the wailing sounds of whistles filled the air, I often thought about the many train rides I’ve taken to various places and the backs of stores and restaurants I’ve seen. Much as I love flying, train travel still has a magnetism.
I loved watching the hundreds of wide-eyed youngsters and parents and longed for a day when I might have a grandchild to bring to the Museum. Happily, that time arrived in 2017 when we brought our new grandson Lucas to the Museum after his arrival from China. He ran all around the exhibit, pointing excitedly and speaking as best he could. This year I plan to bring him back again and I know he will have a much different perspective.
As a young boy in the 50s, I played avidly with the Lionel trains my dad bought for my brothers and me. Our Lionels were just on one set of tracks in our living room but we enjoyed watching them during Hanukkah and Christmas. Every now and then, my dad would add a station or a couple of buildings at spots along the tracks, but his efforts didn’t hold a candle to this museum exhibit.
My Uncle Sig had a huge collection of HO miniature trains and he built a village so that we could imagine the trains traveling through middle America, but we couldn’t always visit regularly because my aunt and uncle kept a busy schedule.
The most incredible train exhibit I ever saw was the one at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry. When I was growing up, we never missed that exhibit and my wife and I still enjoy visiting it when we’re back in Chicago at the museum. The exhibit reflects trains of all different sizes and, as I recalled from our last trip, the museum folks have even added a rapid transit component that shows the city’s downtown loop. That train exhibit takes up an entire large gallery and is still breathtaking.
The Holiday Express Train Show at the Fairfield Museum is a must see for model railroad enthusiasts, wanbees and observers of all ages. I already have several possible dates when I can bring my grandson for a visit. And I can’t wait to see little Lucas moving from one part of the exhibition to another drinking in the wonders of this special experience.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.