Daniel’s model train Christmas story

Perhaps too early for a Christmas edition? I think not:

“1955 was to be a tipping point in our family railroading experience.

As I was only 8 years old, I had no idea about this, but Doug, my 14 year old brother, was wiser in these things, especially since he knew that the deep well of our parent’s art deco wardrobe could hold wonderful Christmas treasures.

For decades I only knew part of this story, but my brother told me the rest of the story a few years ago at the last time we were together, but I had no idea about that, and maybe he was wiser on that as well.

In the late fall of 1955 Doug started scoping out the favorite parental Christmas hiding places, and in the wardrobe he made a marvelous find. A Lionel O gauge F-3 double A unit Santa Fe locomotive, one A unit powered, the other A unit a dummy.

As there was only 1 set, he assumed it was for him, the older son. He said nothing about his find this due to my focus on Santa.

On Christmas morning, at first light, we awoke our parents (I doubt that they had actually fallen asleep) to see what Santa had brought.

My dad was a minister in Salem, N.J., and the Christmas season was very full of church activities, so Christmas Eve preparation left very little time for sleep.

Tradition held that we could not go down the stairs until dad had checked it out and that the tree lights were turned on.

When we came down the stairs, our usual temporary train platform was set up, the gifts were assembled and staged, perhaps as magically as if Santa had done it himself.

My folks anticipated a special Christmas, so they set up the church’s Wollensak reel to reel tape recorder. I did not pay much attention to that as there were gifts to open!

During his tale of that Christmas my brother told me he was anxiously awaiting opening his gift, but as it happened, I was told to open a long square ended box that was quite heavy.

When the gleaming red and silver Santa Fe slid out of the box, a seismometer could have registered my brother’s heart dropping. “I was totally disappointed,” he told me. The folk’s must have realized this so they quickly directed him to the box that held his Santa Fe.

That was to be the last year for the temporary Christmas layout, as we were now into it big time. A permanent layout was set up on the 3rd floor of the Victorian parsonage, only to be moved and enhanced 9 months later in a move to Haddon Heights, N.J.

As we made our way to our new home, the very last item attached to the back doors of the moving van was our train platform.

Many Christmases have since come and gone, with my own sons and grandchildren, but my recorded yell of delight, “Look Doug, a Santa Fe!” still rings in my ears.

Daniel”

“Good Morning Al… Gordy here and I had an HO layout in my basement, which was fine, but I also had a collection of the Dickens Village houses & figurines which we put up each Christmas.

So I decided to combine them and I made a Dickens Christmas HO Railroad layout….

I am now RVing and have a fifth wheel and I am now putting it up in my RV basement. The layout is 4′ x 8′ so it just fits.

By the way the Grinch’s sled was made from scratch by wood & paper etc. Hope you get this OK, Looking to hearing from you….

Gordy, Naples, FL”

A big thanks to Gordy – and to Daniel, I did enjoy his Christmas tale. Loved that he’s stil got the loco.

If you have a Christmas story that you want to share, please mail me or leave a comment below.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you want to stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.

Remember, it’s the start that stops most people.

Best

Al

PS Don’t forget the latest ebay cheat sheet is here. Still updated daily.

28 Responses to Daniel’s model train Christmas story

  1. the pictures are beautiful, i love them & Merry Christmas.

  2. The 1880 Prospector's Ghost says:

    Thank You Sir, for sharing such a great memory of youth.

  3. Brian Rockey says:

    Wonderful story and Christmas layout folks!
    Brian, Wokingham UK

  4. Greg Schaefer says:

    Daniel, I had that exact same set of engines. My dad built a “double decker” layout, and it took over the dining room for about 2 weeks each Christmas season. It had an automatic milk car that a little man unloaded onto the platform. Two switches made it a loop to loop configuration. I can still draw the track plan if I had to. And every night on the TV news, Little Chico would sing out “Santa Fe, all the way”. Alas, no more Lionel or Little Chico. Thank you for the memories.

  5. Robert Brady says:

    Very Christmassy,Great scene .Have a Great Holiday!
    The Critic

  6. Robert Brady says:

    Every kid growing up that was lucky enough to get a train set was definitely a Lionel Santa Fe F7.60 years + ago. Including yours’s truly.

  7. Chris Sylvester says:

    Wow!!! Love it nice job very cool definitely puts you in a Christmas spirit thank you for sharing!!!

  8. Cary B says:

    What a pleasant post to wake up to this morning. Wonderful holiday story’s Al
    Have a merry Christmas
    Cary in Maryland

  9. Dwight in Toronto says:

    It just so happens that I have the very same O scale Santa Fe double A unit sitting on a display shelf in my N scale layout room. It occupies a place of honour and nostalgia, alongside the very first train set that I opened as a five year old on Christmas morning 1961 … an O scale Marx 2-4-2 with boxcar, tanker, flatcar and caboose.

    Although operable, they sit there, long and happily retired, bearing the battle scar evidence of having delivered a lifetime of fun, learning, imagination and enjoyment. The big cardboard box that the set came in is long gone, but I remember what it looked like. And I can still fondly recall the smell of the smoke that would puff out of the stack, as well as the odour of ozone that is unique to big old O scale electric motors … characteristics which are lacking in N scale!

  10. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Daniel….great story.

    Gordy……fabulous Christmas winter display layout. Your layout should be in a 5th Avenue display window.

  11. Bob Turri says:

    Had a similar experience back in the mid 50’s. Could never figure how my father got our 4 x 10 ft platform up from the basement, then put up a 7 ft decorated tree with two Lionel steam engines,, a log loader, a coal loader, and a crane, underneath all in one night. I’m sure he barely got upstairs before we three boys awoke with great anticipation in our young hearts.
    Thanks for sharing your experiance.

  12. Great christmas story and a great christmas layout
    Happy holiday’s everyone
    bob from kissimmee florida

  13. James Marek says:

    I love Santa Fe F-units.

  14. My layout is O scale. How would I use the Kahuna Bundle buildings to make them fit my O scale set up?
    Thanks,
    Eddie in East Tennessee

  15. Christmas memories are special memories.
    They are even more special when trains are involved.
    Thirty five years ago my wife’s first gift to me was an LGB train set.
    For 34 years she made sure I received a train every Christmas.
    As she was failing (she is gone now), she purchased two sets from Bradford Exchange for me. — Both were Christmas themed “collectables”.
    Those last two gifts are special in many ways. They reflected her love for me and yet also reflected her nature. Maybe not the choices she would have made were she in better health BUT they were the best choices she could make at the time.

  16. Bob M says:

    What a great Christmas story and memories!

    And what a great Christmas layout in your 5th’s ‘basement’!

  17. Warren C Gobin says:

    Veryit had to take you sometime to construct, Vwey niceMerry Xmas and be safe
    nice

  18. Warren C Gobin says:

    Very nice, it had to take sometime to construct. Have a merry Xmas and be safe

  19. JW says:

    Happy and Merry Christmas and Hanukkah! Like God’s love may the vaccine spread throughout the world! I love the layout!

  20. Wow!!! I Love it, nice job very good! Definitely puts you in a Christmas spirit! Thank you for sharing the pictures they are beautiful, i love them & a very Merry Christmas.to you and family! Wrap up warm!!
    Peter

  21. I know I am still new to model railroading but I never knew how big or how many people are involved in the hobby. Then go on youtube and the number of people with time to build their railroads work & still do youtube videos is impressive! My hat goes off to you guys! I hope someday I can contribute to the hobby like all of you guys have done for years.

  22. Gordy,
    A great blend of themes, so much to see and try to find. A very nice Christmas presentation.Kudos to you. Right now you have as much snow as we do, but I am sure that will ultimately change.

    Thanks for sharing!

    MN Dan

  23. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Daniel Great Story!!! My 1st train set was a Marx 1666 steamer and it sits on the shelf in my train room, Still have all my dads Lionel HO from the late 50 and early 60s, we broke alot as kids no I spend time repairing or placing like items.. I have many Post war Lionel as a kid buying from my paper route. I guess we never do get older inside when it comes to Trains.. God Speed all and Merry Christmas!!

  24. Andrew Aves says:

    Wow! Gordy – Magnificent display. Thank you for sharing with us
    Andrew in Oz

  25. dick in Bakersfield, CA USA says:

    my Dad had a three rail o scale lionel engine and cars growing up but he never liked the the three rail. So when I was old enough he began to buy s scale American flyer gear. I’m 82 now and still have some of the original s scale two rail equipment we enjoyed way back when.
    I have since gone to ho gauge and have a 4 x 8 layout set up in my garage, complete with gold mine farm circus forest and train switching yard.
    But at Christmas I get out the old American flyer and build a ring of fun around our tree. My kids, grand kids and great grand kids still love to see the old trains run at Christmas.

  26. Al Pelura says:

    I started my model railroad adventures when my grandparents gave me an American flyer set which we set up for many years for Christmas and my grandparents also lived in Salem NJ

  27. Rob Schweitzer says:

    Greatly loved the pictures. They sure help put one in the holiday spirit. I had a similar train setup in my youth, although not that elaborate. Happy Holidays to all, … Rob, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA
    St. Goar & Murren Scenic Railway.

  28. Al,

    We need more Christmas tales. Never hesitate to highlight the rich emotional memories this hobby of ours engenders.

    For example, some time ago, a reader was showing pictures of his layout, which — to be charitable — wasn’t too much to brag about . But the end of the note was a “grabber.” He said he can’t wait each day until his grandchildren get home from school “so we can go down stairs and play with the trains.”

    I thought, this man is the richest man in the world.

    Keep ’em coming, Al.

    George

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