Model Christmas train

Daniel’s been in touch with his Model Christmas train layout.

Christmas tree train layout

(and don’t miss Gordy’s Grinch pic below too – loved it).

“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.


Lionel train

Now on to Gordy for his Model Christmas train layout:

“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”

model christmas train

model christmas train

model christmas train

model christmas train

model christmas train

Christmas train layout

Christmas tree train layout

Christmas tree train layout

Christmas tree train layout

model christmas train

A big thanks to Gordy for sharing his model Christmas train pics – loved the Grinch, and to Daniel for sharing 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.

More Christmas layouts here.

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.



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

30 Responses to Model Christmas train

  1. Alton E Martin says:

    I enjoy Al’s messages so much and use them on my own 6 layouts (first one will begin today n gauge).👌👍🏼

  2. THOMAS h Scott jr says:

    Very nice little Christmas layout , I like the Grinch in the sleigh up on the mountain that’s cool

  3. robert dale tiemann says:

    lots of work. it paid off, very nice layout.

  4. David Fontaine says:

    Very cool!!

  5. Brian Olson says:

    Reminds me as a kid in my native Canada, getting a Lionel Train for Christmas!

  6. George Zaky says:

    Santa Fe trains & Christmas went together-Great memories.
    Absolutely love your layout. As festive as can be- with the Grinch too. Awesome.
    Big Al
    There’s a song “We need a little Christmas- Right this very minute.——-”
    We sure do! Thanks

  7. James says:

    Awesome, looks like a Christmas card

  8. William Schart says:

    I had the same Santa Fe A-A pair back in the 50s too. They too were a Xmas present, part of a set with several cars, and enough track for a 4×8 loop with a siding. Included in the set was an operating milk car and log car. My dad built a set up for this that was hinged so it could fold up over my bed when not in use.

    Eventually I ended up selling this off. I now wish I had kept it, would probably be worth a bundle now.

  9. Greg Marples says:

    Gordy, the Grinches sleigh and mountain are fantastic! Great workmanship. I’m still grinning about it.

  10. Gary M from Long Island says:

    Daniel….great Christmas story. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    Gordy…..Loved your layout….beautiful and festive. Nice touch with the sled and the grinch.

    Al….. Have a great holiday season. Thank you for the site.

  11. Mike Ilkenhons says:

    Christmas layouts are fantastic…. My family was a third generation railroad family. But we never had a train to set up until I was seven. Christmas morning that year, the same large heavy box, was a Marx 027 Western Pacific freight train. Just enough track to go around the tree in a square loop. I do not remember one other gift that year… but knowing what I received every year from my grandma…socks and under wear were there for sure. Merry Christmas to Al and all he brings together in his family.

  12. Robert J Green says:

    What wonderful stories. I was also 8 in 1955 and had a very similar experience but with Marx Southern Pacific A powered and non powered units. Merry Christmas to all.

  13. Malcolm says:

    Al – Merry Christmas!

    Gordy – What a beautiful Christmas layout!

  14. william janmes palmer says:

    loved the christmas train story and the layout the grinch piece was exceptionall

  15. Geza HAIDEGGER says:

    With my 3 children and 6 grandchildren, HO model railwass around the christmas tree is a MUST. Even mMy grandchildren are saying so!

  16. Geza HAIDEGGER says:

    LONG LIVE HO- SantaFE !!!

  17. Will in NM says:

    Gordy, Very impressive Christmas layout. I love the details and beautiful colors or the Dickens village houses and shops. Aren’t they a bit large for HO scale trains?

    I found some close to HO scale ceramic buildings in 1997 at Walmart and Target and started designing a Christmas layout to incorporate them. Alas, I got a track planning program and ended up designing an unbuildable layout. I just realized that a few months ago and decided to eliminate the topmost layer of the layout and simplify the track plan. Also, decided to add an extra 6 inches to one side of the layout board so I could use a nice Shinohara double crossover in the front of the layout.

    Sadly, my recent heart surgery has put off any work on the layout until sometime next spring. When finished, I want to donate it to our local Senior Center who’ve been so helpful during my recovery.

  18. Stephen Gispanski says:

    Hey everyone, Al, Daniel. Great layout, I also love the colors. I try to find houses like that, to install them or get them ready for my layout. I am still looking for Gordon’s gorge, where is it? Just like Daniels train layout, there’s a lot there as all of us know, putting in all that fun or making a realistic train Layout, is hard to do. Time money, self commitment, and all the hours that go with it. And all you’re left with selling your train, layout and starting over. And I know quite a few guys have done that. But to us I do have the time and money to put into ais hard to do. Time money, self commitment, and all the hours that go with it. And all your left with selling your train, layout and starting over. And I know quite a few guys have done that. But to us I do have the time and money to put into it, all that love, is all that love. A lot of people don’t understand us. Do you have a breakdown sheet on how much each loco cost cars buildings scenery, I think scenery covers all of it, little plastic painted peace’s that you put in there place. A lot of dedication. Keep up the good work guys. I love seeing everybody’s thoughts on the table. Great stuff. I gives me and other people ideas to put on a table. One day I hope mine will be here too. I have taken pictures of mine Pops lay out, and I can’t find them nowhere? They’re on my phone download, somewhere. I would love to send those in. When I find them, I will give you a lowdown on what you see in the picture. My father was raised with a gauge. He turned around and not only had his own gauge in storage. He decided to buy us as kids, HO gauge trains. I not only have mine HO & O trains and cars, he has giving, my Pops, all of his O Gauge and everything that go’s with it. So that is why I am trying to think of ways to fill my man’s cave all the way with everything Ho and O gauge. Until the next time, keep your wheels on the track and keep Truckin.

  19. robert dale tiemann says:

    GRINCH! i love it. makes me kinda cold just to look at it. terrific job.

  20. Kenneth R Fox says:

    Too busy for my taste, but keeping with the spirit of the season.

  21. Scott in Florida says:

    Daniel – what a fantastic story brings back so many many memories-

    Al i- do please keep the Christmas theme going!!!

    Yes please post more

  22. Gordon Grindey says:

    Hi Al… Gordy here, Iam living in an RV in SW Florida now and have very little room for the layout, but I am putting it together fitting the space I have available…. I will keep you posted on any progress, but its a slow . Thanks for putting my layout up every year, I really appreiate your sharing my layout. My wife Sandy always opens your emails every morning and loves them……..Gordy

  23. Arthur J Romano says:

    Beautiful layouts and wonderful stories make for a Happy Christmas to all!

  24. andrew says:

    I loved every thing about this loved it!!!!!

  25. Frank says:

    Got to live this layout, beautiful, detailed and fun!

  26. Brian Olson says:

    Hallmark Channel Approved!

  27. Steve Ruple says:

    Daniel that’s a wonderful Christmas story. Gordy awesome layout and I love the grinch on the mountain, Merry Christmas

  28. Jeff in Seattle says:

    Love this. It reminds me of the large layout that was on display in the big corner window of the Bon Marche department store in downtown Seattle. When I was a kid, that was one of the highlights of Christmas. Seeing Santa and the trains. Putting my hand on the magnetic hand sticker on the window and controlling the train going around and around the Christmas town and through the mountain tunnels!!! Where have those day gone???

  29. JW Snyder says:

    Two delightful holiday sharings that warmed my heart. Thank you for the gifts!

  30. W. "Dutch" Leydsman says:

    While as a hi-railer (AKA Lionel enthusiast) I loved those Christmas additions while growing up in Union, NJ. This was in the mid-fifties. My dad would point out the Lionel factory as we went to see friends and family on our weekend car trips.

    As I got older, my collection has grown to over eighty ‘O’ gauge engines and an untold amount of freight cars and passenger cars. As I grew, we moved out to central Jersey, where we set up a moderate sized layout in our large basement. It was there my friends and I would bicycle many miles to see the trains and GG1’s pulling their passenger trains through the countryside heading to NYC or Philly. We stood with awe at the speed of these trains with the occasional sparks coming off the pantographs.

    It was as an adult I finally purchased both scale and semi scale GG1’s. I am now retired, and have spent years drawing up my 16 X 24 foot display. It is based on that famous NE Corridor through New Jersey, where my childhood memories abound. At this point I am on revision #14, which I think is the best for my mid sized layout. However, each year, now living in the mountain west of the US that dream has persisted and will be coming to fruition and at each Christmas our living room is filled with a temporary display under the Christmas tree running at least two trains.

    I have so very much enjoyed the ideas gained at this site and hope that my efforts will be worthy of being posted as time progresses. We down sized to a small home and I had a large train shed built in our backyard just for my collection. My theme will be a permanent display depicting Christmas time 1956. It is a long time in coming, but a great retirement project dream!

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