Holiday Train Room Open House marks 10th anniversary

November 12, 2014

Over the last decade, the Holiday Train Room Open House at Garden Spot Village has become a Christmas tradition for families throughout eastern Lancaster County and beyond. 

NEW HOLLAND, Pa. — Nov. 11, 2014 — Ten years ago the Model Railroad Club at Garden Spot Village opened the doors to its model train room to the public for the first time. Since then, visiting the elaborate O- and HO-gauge displays has become a Christmas season tradition for many Eastern Lancaster County families. In the nine years since the club has been keeping attendance records, the annual event has drawn more than 20,676 visitors.

“A record number of 3,798 made the trip in 2012, but two Saturday snowfalls held the 2013 total at 2,134,” said Harry Black, one of about 20 Train Club members, all of whom share the title “vice president” and who donate their time, money and equipment to work on the trains for their own enjoyment and to entertain others.

Even repeat visitors will find lots of new highlights on both layouts. Club members totally revamped the O-gauge layout after the 2012 season, refurbishing the room and switching to a “dog-bone” layout to better accommodate the flow of people around the track.

“Although model railroad layouts are never complete, this new design has the basic ingredients finished for the 2014 showing,” said Mike “Fitz” Fitzgerald, another of the club’s vice presidents.

The new layout features a hobo camp, Sunoco Oil siding, many detailed structures and LED lighting. A new Lionel Legacy remote control system makes it possible to run five trains at once. Since last year, club members have made the layout even more interactive. Now visitors can push a button to move workers around a control tower and operate a sawmill with a conveyor belt log loader. These new features are in addition to an operating freight station, coal loader, gas station and water tower.

This year’s visitors will also see a unique 15-foot early handcrafted Lionel O-gauge circus train. Recently donated to the group, the circus train has been added to a wall display.

In 2005, the club started a large HO-gauge display. The basic layout, with more than 600 feet of main track, was completed in 2013, but club members continue to enhance it. This year, club members can operate much of the display through a computer or smart phone, and remote operation of the turntable helps relieve operator congestion in that viewing area. The display now features more detailed road crossings, with crossing gates that raise and lower with flashing lights and ringing bells.

“A newly donated Campbell’s Soup train is a very colorful addition to our operating train inventory, along with a very active gang car. Just watching the men pump the car along the rails will wear you out,” said Black. Visitors will still be able to get an engineer’s-eye view from the engine of one of the trains on a 55-inch wall monitor.

A talking Thomas the Tank Engine is ready for another season of conversation with the young visitors and occasional embarrassed adult. In addition, a child-sized Thomas the Tank Engine is popular with visitors who are looking for for a photo opportunity.

While the displays are open, the club will also sell surplus model railroad equipment in both O and HO gauges, as well as magazines, Hallmark train ornaments, scenery materials, structures and memorabilia.

The train room is open to the public from 1:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, 13, 20 and 27. Garden Spot Village is located at 433 S. Kinzer Ave. Admission is free; donations are accepted. For information and directions, call 717-355-6000.

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