Christmas tree train

Scott has been in touch with his Christmas tree train story.

I’m already feeling very festive, and Scott’s story made me smile so I hope it spreads some Christmas Cheer.

And for all the ‘Bah humbugs’ who just want some raw model trains, Dominic’s 12×24 HO scale should keep you happy.

Now back to Scott:

“When the 1970 musical Scrooge was first released, I sat with my family in a very grand movie theater in the Maryland Suburbs of Washington D.C.

My father, who at the time was just getting started in life and probably had to sacrifice a bit for us all to be at the showing, wanted his family to see this side of Christmas.

My dad a couple of years earlier had obtained a massive train set for me at GC Murphy’s — a regional discount department store.

It was a place where he had scored a temporary position as floor help during the busy Christmas season of 1966. Apparently, it was just enough to make Christmas happen for his fledgling family.

I imagine his employee discount and low sales of discounted electric trains were the only reasons I could have received my amazing “American Flyer, All Aboard” train set as a gift.

By Christmas of 1970 we had moved out of a city apartment and into an old house in the country (only about 13 miles from Washington D.C.).

The house had a damp, cold dark root cellar type of basement with an unlit exterior entrance which was even scary at high noon in the middle of August. This root cellar’s back most room was where my electric trains were relegated when we moved into the house.

This is where I spent most of my non-school waking hours in those days. It was there in the dimly lit cellar I became fascinated with engineering, science, and electricity.

The most memorable day of my 8th year on the planet (1970) was just before Christmas. Late in the afternoon of this cold and gloomy day, I was busy playing with my trains in the chilly dark recesses of the basement.

I came upstairs but once to get an extension cord and some alcohol and cotton swabs to clean the tracks. Seeing me out of the inner sanctum, my father explains to me it is time to put away the trains because we are going to the movies. I protested, asking why and what for? He proceeded to tell me the story of an old man at Christmas time with many regrets.

Before I knew it, we were in our Plymouth Fury heading to the Langley Park movie theater. From this moment on, the images and memories are indelibly etched in my mind: The beautiful music, the modern cinematography, Ebenezer’s redemption, everything.

But there was one problem with all of this — I was too young for the terrifying scenes of Scrooge wrapped in chains in his eternally frozen counting chambers surrounded by rats, cold, dark, and loneliness.

So, while thoroughly enjoying the experience, and looking forward to getting home to the pre-Christmas joy of my railroad empire, something had changed.

That evening, before dinner as I raced to the root cellar, my ears felt perpetually pinned back like a cat who hears something from behind.

As I reached to open the haunted door, I found myself checking its backside to see if Jacob Marley’s pigtail might be protruding. After ensuring the door was not haunted, I began the long walk down the hallway towards the back room, I half expected to see a phantom horse-drawn hearse float by wishing me (the Governor) a Merry Christmas.

By the time I made it to my trains, the room seemed (in my imagination) to be Ebenezer’s frozen counting chamber in Hell, and I was sure I could hear the rats. The clanking of dinner silverware being set upstairs sounded to me as if the devils were on their way with my chains.

It was too much for my 8- year-old mind, I banished myself from the root cellar indefinitely.

The spell finally broke Christmas morning when my father, once again, surprised me with more trains he had picked up at a hardware store near his office on Connecticut Avenue and 14th Street. And just like when Scrooge promises to find a cure for Tiny Tim, my father proclaimed to me, my trains could be brought up stairs and set up more permanently in my bedroom.

What a grand Christmas it was in 1970!


model train benchwork

Supporting saw horses shaped as Christmas trees

christmas tree train

This year the center piece was a Christmas tree train

Christmas tree train:

christmas tree train

Also note the benchwork details… the supporting 1x4s are Christmas trees

christmas tree train

The Mini craft Church from 1953 Complete with Stained glass ablaze awaits Christmas eve worshipers. Control Panel includes 150 Watt Transformer with Current and Voltage Monitoring meters.

christmas tree train

Santa & his Sleigh with team of Miniature Reindeer are visible as a silhouette over the Signal Bridge

santa model railroad

Fast Freight wisping by as Rudolph signals the block is occupied with his “Nose So Bright”

model train candy cane

model train christmas lights

Christmas Candied Canes out for Delivery

A big thanks to Scott for sharing his Christmas tree train story.

There are more Christmas model railroads here.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

11 Responses to Christmas tree train

  1. Ed Smith says:

    This was beautifully written and could easily be the impetus for a new Christmas movie. I envisioned it all as you took me with you in your writing. In my own life I could say Been There Done That but in different ways.
    Thank you for your journey.

  2. Rob McCrain says:

    What a wonderful story. That is a beautiful Christmas tree train set up too. Parents make great sacrifices for their children’s happiness. Thank you for submitting this story and thanks to Al for publishing it. Merry Christmas, Rob

  3. George Zaky says:

    Christmas for me now is to watch Christmas story that goes over & over for a day, watch the original Christmas Carol with Alastar Cook ( I have the disk) and watch my American Flyer modified Franklin with new motor and decoder chug, whistle and clang around my Christmas layout. When the mood strikes I replace the Franklin with the newer S scale Polar Express that loudly proclaims ” This is the Polar Express– AALLLL Aboard!”
    This brings me so much happiness, memories of Christmases past and a warmth I dont get any other season..
    I so loved your story and hope your kids have good memories to fall back on. Enjoy that layout and have a great Christmas.
    Big Al
    Tis the season to be Jolly! Best to you & yours.

  4. Sam H. Maryland, USA says:

    Growing up during the era and also in Maryland, abet a bit north of Washington, I can relate to a lot of your story. I also purchased several train cars and other items from Murphy’s store. I have a Gandy Dancer cart I purchased from Murphy’s store on an after Christmas sale for $6.67. (still have the box with the price tags)
    Great story, and a very nice setup. I’ve just recently restarted my train experiences. They have come and gone over time and are now a shared experience with my grandchildren.

  5. richard rudolph says:

    Great story telling and a creative layout. Merry Christmas.

  6. Ken G says:

    I love it! Wonderful holiday spirit!
    Merry Christmas to all!kkkkk

  7. matiSon says:

    Great story and a nice Christmas train layout around the tree I grew up during the same time as you. I didn’t have trains as a child, and didn’t know anyone who did, but I have always been fascinated by them. I don’t have a Christmas setup and have never met anyone who has had one. I never knew of the phenomenon until I saw it on this site. It’s nice to see the different styles and types.

  8. Wes Eakin says:

    Thank you Scott for sharing those wonderful memories! Our trip to the ‘Big City’ of Pittsburgh, PA, was to Gimbals where the toys were on the top floor. Riding the escalators to the 11th floor and boarding the Monorail that was suspended from the ceiling. Great way to scope out the toys and especially the train layouts. Next stop was the Buel Planetarium with it’s magical Lionel train display with night/day timers and many operating scenes including boats in actual water that docked and traversed the waterway. What memories! Can’t forget the streetcars downtown and the Pittsburgh Incline!
    Hope you still have your “WINTER American Flyer All Aboard” panels as they are rather hard to find today. Have both sets of panels including the switch panels. GREAT FUN! Wes now in KY. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  9. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome Christmas story Scott

  10. Gary Gissiner says:

    What a great little layout. I love the way you have trees holding it up.

  11. Scott In Florida says:

    Thank you to all for the kind remarks ! The memories of this bye-gone-era are tremendously special to me – I keep them alive year over year and look forward to sharing more through this forum …

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