Steaming into the season with a local train attraction

Column by John Akal
Posted 12/11/18

When Christmas time rolls around it always brings along loads of memories and images in our minds and imaginations. Everyone has certain things they think about and associate with this time of the …

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Steaming into the season with a local train attraction

Posted

When Christmas time rolls around it always brings along loads of memories and images in our minds and imaginations. Everyone has certain things they think about and associate with this time of the year. It all starts with the reason for the season and impressions of the first Christmas with a nativity scene. Of course the weather at this time of year brings up thoughts of snow and we see lots of snowflake decorations, snowmen and the like. Then there’s the beloved characters like Santa and Rudolf and Jack Frost. Lets not forget the elves. There’s a lot of them busy doing something or other.

Then there’s a couple of modes of transportation that seem to always accompany Christmas. First on the list is a sleigh. Santa drives one, you take one to Grandmother’s house and bells jingle on it. But coming in a close second is something else. I’m not quite sure when it became a part of the holiday imagery, but it started way before my childhood. I’m talking about trains.

I’m guessing that it all began with toy train sets under the tree that got set up as a circle going around the tree. They were pretty popular decades ago and back then, they were the modern marvels of the day. For kids used to pushing their toys around the floor by hand, something that ran on electricity that they could control themselves must have been on every kid’s wish list.

Well, those kids grew up and started turning their toys into a hobby. Toy trains morphed into extremely detailed scale models of various sizes and countless basements around the world were transformed into miniature towns, industrial complexes, railroad yards and scenic byways. All of a sudden they had to be defined by what size they were by using letters and numbers to indicate the scale. There’s a bunch of them now. No.1, G, S, O, On30, HO, HOn3, N, N Narrow Gauge and little tiny Z scale trains. You can pretty much build an empire to fit whatever space you have available. Although model railroading as a hobby isn’t quite as popular as it once was, there are still plenty of people that enjoy it and it’s not uncommon to see a 60-year-old man wishing for a new locomotive to be left under the tree or in a stocking, depending on what scale his trains are.

After a while this association of trains and Christmas moved out of the house and into the movies. A Holiday Affair, The Santa Claus, Christmas Eve, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, Earnest Saves Christmas and White Christmas are all listed on train lover’s websites as ones to see. But the king of them all is the Polar Express.

Which brings me to this week’s event. The Colorado Railroad Museum has been presenting a special Polar Express program since November, but all the performances sold out quickly and tickets are no longer available. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they have some other great ways to include real live trains into your Christmas this year.

There are two more Saturdays, December 15 & 22 that Santa will be there hanging out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for photos. It’s included free with the price of admission. The other one is happening on Dec. 18, recommended for kids about 4-6 years old. It’s called the Director’s Storytime and Craft. It happens from 10-11 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month with a different story and theme. This month it’s the Polar Express. Kids get to hear a story followed by a fun make and take home craft. It’s also free with the price of admission and it enables you to take your kids on a tour of the museum afterwards.

The Colorado Railroad Museum is located at 17155 W.44th Avenue in Golden. Admission is Adults $10, Seniors $8, Children $5 with Children under two years old and Museum Members admitted free.

Now for those of you that have train buffs on your Christmas list you can shop for some cool stuff at the Museum’s Depot General Store. You don’t need to pay admission to shop there and they have lots of cool and unique things available. And, if you are into model railroads they have two of them on display. A large G scale garden railroad outside and a smaller HO scale one indoors in the basement. Ho, ho, ho.

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multi-media production. He can be reached at jaimaging@aol.com

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