Some of Lancaster County’s most elaborate model train sets have light shows, combine multiple-gauge trains and show real and made-up towns. The holiday season is the only time to see most of them.
The train buffs behind these displays are continuing a tradition that goes back a century. In Elizabethtown, for example, the first holiday train display sent people upstairs at the Friendship Fire Co. in the 1920s. In the 1970s and 1980s, three church Christmas bazaars had train displays. Now, the tradition continues at Elizabethtown Public Library.
There are displays built by volunteers at retirement centers and historical societies.
Some are at businesses and are open year-round. And many of these displays are free. (Donations are appreciated by the volunteers who often work year-round to make sure the trains run on time.)
All Aboard Railroad
What: A display of American Flyer trains featuring up to 20 trains and more than 2,000 feet of track, plus light displays every half-hour.
When: Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. through Dec. 29.
Where: Bart’s Pneumatics Corp., 1952 Landis Valley Road.
Cost: $6 for adults and $4 for kids 3 to 11. No charge for those using wheelchairs.
More information: 717-392-1568 or bartspneumatics.com.
Choo Choo Barn
What: The 1,700-square-foot train display has more than 150 figures and vehicles and 22 trains.
When: Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through Dec. 31. The Christmas layout is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Jan. 2-5, 11-12 and 17-20.
Cost: Adults ages 12 and older are $8.50. Kids ages 3-11 are $5.
Where: 226 Gap Road, Strasburg
More information: choochoobarn.com
Columbia & Susquehanna Model Railroad
What: Train layout that depicts the borough as it looked between the 1920s and 1940s. The HO-scale set-up features more than 1,800 square feet and a new area has an O-gauge railroad.
When: Weekends from 1-4 p.m. through Jan. 5. Santa visits Sunday, Dec. 15 and 22.
Where: Columbia Historic Preservation Society, 21 N. Second St., Columbia.
Cost: Free, but donations are welcome.
More information: tonysegro.com/cola.html
Elizabethtown Public Library
What: Interactive train display with up to 20 trains and about 50 buttons to push.
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 30. Also, Friday, Dec. 13 (Second Friday, Etown Nights) from 6-8 p.m. Private showings are available. Call 717-367-7467 for more information.
Where: 10 S. Market St., Elizabethtown.
Cost: $2 donation per person is requested.
More information: etownpubliclibrary.org/trains
What: G-guage layout with towns, bridges and lots of plants. If kids can spot 30 animals, they can win a prize.
When: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. through Christmas.
Where: Frysville Farms, 300 Frysville Road, Ephrata
More information: 717-354-4502 or frysvillefarms.com
Garden Spot Village Train Display
What: O-gauge and HO gauge layouts with more than 600 feet of track, featuring a talking Thomas the Tank Engine and more.
When: Saturdays in December through Dec. 28, 1:30-4 p.m.; Also Monday, Dec. 30, 1:30-4 p.m.
Cost: Free, donations welcome.
Where: Garden Spot Village, 433 S. Kinzer Ave., New Holland.
More information: gardenspotvillage.org/events or 717-355-6000.
Lititz Public Library Holiday Train Display
What: HO-gauge display made by hand and N-gauge display with 1950s scenery and a circus.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 3-6 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 12, 3-6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, watch how miniatures are made plus Santa visits from 10 a.m.-noon.
Where: Lititz Public Library, 651 Kissel Hill Road
More information: lititzlibrary.org or 717-626-2255
Manheim Historical Society Train Display
What: A model train layout in Manheim shows, in miniature, life in the borough in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
When: Trains will be open Friday, Dec. 13 from 3-8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 from 10-11 a.m.
Where: 210 S. Charlotte St., Manheim
Cost: Free. Donations are appreciated.
More information: manheimhistoricalsociety.org or 717-665-7989.
What: Elizabethtown Model Railroad Club's display has seven gauge-trains: O, HO, G, N, Z, Standard and S gauge.
When: Saturdays, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21 10 a.m.-4 p.m. In 2020, the display is open the first weekend of the month from January through May from 2-4 p.m.
Where: 1 Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown.
More information: mvemodelrrclub.com or 717-287-2086.
National Toy Train Museum
What: Six interactive layouts, including G, Standard, O, S, HO and Lego.
When: Santa will be at the museum Saturdays, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. Admission is free on these days with a nonperishable food item, which will be donated to The Factory Ministries. Otherwise, the museum is open Sundays in December plus Thursday, Dec. 26-Monday, Dec. 30 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Open Tuesday, Dec. 31, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Adults ages 12-64 are $7.50. Children ages 4-11 are $4.50.
Where: 300 Paradise Lane, Ronks
More information: nttmuseum.org
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
What: In addition to life-sized trains, the museum has model trains like the Pennsylvania Middle Division layout.
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Cost: Adults ages 12-64 are $10. Seniors ages 65 and older are $9. Children ages 3-11 are $8.
Where: 300 Gap Road, Strasburg.
More information: rrmuseumpa.org and 717-687-8628.
The Short Line Model Railroad Club
What: Annual display of the Pennsylvania-Reading Anthracite Lines, which features small towns, trains and operating equipment.
When: Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. through Jan. 12.
Cost: Free, donations welcome.
Where: 11 S. State St., Ephrata.
More information: slmrc.com