Monday, December 21, 2009

Choo-Choo Here Comes Christmas, Traverse City 2009 Festival of Trains

Before the X-box and Wii, before the internet, before Pac Man and Pong there was the train.

A holiday themed 'O' guage model engine makes its way around the main display table at the 2009 Festival of Trains.

For millions of children in the 1950’s or 60’s Christmas morning may well have included any one of a hundred different electric train sets that would endlessly hum and click their way around their small oval of tracks. In Traverse City the Northern Michigan Model Railroad Club is helping to keep these holiday memories alive by hosting their annual Festival of Trains.

Each holiday season the twenty four member club opens up its layout of tracks, trains and accessories for public display at the downtown Heritage Center. The event has been held at the center since 2003 and according to club member Roy Aydelotte of Grawn, who also does toy train upgrades and repair, last years event drew more than 8,500 guests. In its first three days this year it has already hosted more than 2,500 visitors.

Mallory Rhem (left) speaks to her daughter Shannon (center) as she and Caitlynn Gehrett (right) enjoy one of the displays at the 2009 Festival of Trains.

The event draws people of all ages from around the area and is very popular with families. Children can operate the various trains and the numerous accessories that line the hundreds of feet of track that make up the festivals main display. “Trains have historically been, for the last hundred years, a part of Christmas and this is a place to come to help celebrate Christmas” says Aydelotte who got his first set at the age of four. “You won’t have this kind of fun anywhere else.”

Model train enthusiasts of all ages enjoy the main display of the 2009 Festival of Trains.

Club members man the controls of the various layouts and are often happy to answer questions about the trains and their club. In addition to the changes the club makes to the layout each year to keep it fresh visitors are likely to see different trains each day as club members bring in and operate engines and cars from their personal collections.

New additions to this year’s event include a small Thomas the Tank Engine cab for children. Kids inside the cab can operate a small model of the popular storybook train, turn on and off the cabs lights, ring the engines bell and sound the trains whistle using a rope pull.

The Festival of Trains is open every day except Christmas day through January 3rd. The events entrance fee also allows visitors to browse the Heritage Centers local history collections that include Native American artifacts and Victorian era displays.

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