By Caryn Coyle
The model train collection bequeathed to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum by former Mayor and Governor William Donald Schaefer will be on display for the first time at the B & O Museum’s Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, the Festival of Trains & Toys is on the museum’s 40 acres of history in downtown Baltimore, and 60,000 to 70,000 visitors are expected. The B & O Railroad Museum will be decorated for the holidays and visitors can see the model trains, ride the merry-go-round, or travel with Frosty the Snowman on the One Mile Express, a half mile of historic track, the first laid in the U.S.
On each of the five weekends of the B & O’s Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys, model train clubs from the Baltimore metropolitan area will display their intricate, scale model replicas. For the remainder of the festival, the Baltimore area NTRAK Club (through Dec. 31) and the National Capital Trackers (Dec. 26 – 31) will be running their model trains through winter wonderlands on a 30 foot by 30 foot display, which is the largest in Baltimore.
The B & O carousel of miniature B & O locomotives, cabooses, vintage horses and a stagecoach has been moved inside the B & O Railroad Museum’s roundhouse and decorated in Victorian holiday finery. The B & O Railroad Museum’s roundhouse, originally constructed as a passenger car shop, was designed as the largest circular industrial building in the world. It covers more than an acre and rises 125 feet into the air.
A National Historic Landmark, the B & O Railroad Museum is recognized universally as the birthplace of American railroading. It was here, in 1829, where Baltimore businessmen, surveyors and engineers set about building the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and laying the first commercial long-distance track. In 1830, construction started and 14 miles of track were opened before the year ended. The following year, a locomotive of American manufacture replaced the horsepower upon which the B & O Railroad originally relied.
Museum visitors can venture inside vintage locomotive and train cars and study hundreds of thousands of tools, time-pieces, fine art, presentation silver, uniforms, furniture and personal memorabilia that provide a unique glimpse of railroading. There are also nearly 200 pieces of locomotives and rolling stock that illustrate the history of railroad technology. From 1830 through the present day, the B & O Railroad Museum has the oldest and most historic American railroad collection in the world.
The Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys, which will be decorated like a winter wonderland, is open seven days a week. Choral and dance groups will serenade and entertain festival visitors. Families can visit Santa’s Workshop and decorate train ornaments and other crafts, take an historic 20 minute train ride with Frosty the Snowman, ride the B & O carousel, watch model train gardens and study railroading artifacts. The B & O Railroad Museum hosts the largest train-related extravaganza in the area, and is a must-see for everyone – young and old – who are fascinated by America’s railroads.
B&O Railroad Museum
Hours: Mon – Sat, 10 a.m. –4 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Closed Dec. 24 & 25, 2011 and Jan. 1, 2012
Admission: $14 for adults and $8 for children 2 -12
Mile One Express train rides are $3 for adults and $2 for children; Train Carousel rides are $2
Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.