From Courier-Post: Model trains bring back Christmas memories
When Rich Drobil was a little boy in the
1950s, Santa Claus labored through the night to set up a Christmas tree
amid a working model train set on a large platform in his living room.
The joy he felt at the sight never left the Glassboro resident.
couldn’t wait for those sounds and the smell of smoke from the Lionel
steam engine running around the tree each year,” recalled Drobil, now a
61-year-old model train enthusiast who works for Camden County College’s
information technology department.
wasn’t until years later that I discovered that the layout platform
lived behind all the shelving of my father’s workbench in the basement
til Christmas Eve,” he added. “After I was in bed, my mother and father
would drag it up from the cellar and spend the entire evening placing
the houses, wiring the tracks, testing everything, (and) then putting up
the tree with lights, tinsel and the other hanging decorations.”
many children of a certain generation, Christmas and trains go together
like a pair of rails. Though the tradition faded for a time, it has
seen a resurgence in recent years as technology has improved and as
grandparents introduce their childhood hobby to a new set of fans.
children’s classics like The Polar Express, the Harry Potter series and
Thomas the Tank Engine have also revived interest in trains, said
Conrad Daniel, owner of the Toy Train Emporium in Cherry Hill. The store
is packed floor to ceiling with trains and their accessories, both new
something about trains and Christmas,” said Daniel, who has been in
business for 16 years. “It may have something to do with the fact that,
back in the day, trains were a little pricey. It was something you got
model train makers like Lionel offer holiday-themed trains and
accessories — there’s even a blue-and-white Hanukkah train.
the association between model trains and the holidays may stretch back
even further to the 18th century, said Drobil, a member of the Strasburg
Model Railroad Club of South Jersey. Back then, homes would feature a
miniature village under their Christmas trees.