by Mary Jo
Christmas decorations are being packed away now, and that includes train gardens, which might be a custom unique to Baltimore. I was once told that they're done in Pittsburgh, an industrial city rather like Baltimore and not far away, but when I googled "train ," the only hits I got were for locations with them in the Baltimore area.
Basically, train gardens are train sets on steroids. I'm told they began at firehouses, where the firefights often had time on their hands so at Christmas they would build elaborate train environments for people in the community to come in and enjoy.
I don't know when this custom began–I'm not a native of these parts–but it is well established. Does it have anything to do with the fact that Baltimore is the home of American railroading? Haven't a clue!
The train garden I'm most familiar with is built annually at a small but lively local mall. It's enormously complex and I believe the assembly work is done by volunteers, and some of the mall merchants provide financial support. Here's a picture of this year's from the mall's website:
Really, this is all hearsay! But one true fact is that EVERYONE loves the train garden, all ages from infants to oldies! Parents hold little kids on their shoulders. Slightly larger kids leave nose prints on the barriers around the exhibit. When I was there before Christmas,
a half dozen young people in wheelchairs were tootling around the edges and enjoying the show. Often one must wait for people to move away in order to get up to the glass wall around the exhibit.
So enjoy the train garden pictures. Do they have any such custom where you live? I'd love to know more.
In the meantime–toot, toot to you all!