Train display delights all ages

Train display delights all ages
Train display delights all ages | Don Box, MTD, Santa's Village

MTD employee Don Box has been a helper at the train exhibit set up at Santa’s Village for the last 19 years
For 23 of Santa’s Village’s 27 years, one particular feature has made sure the successful effort has literally stayed on the right track.
Twenty-three years ago, MTD pieced together an eight-by-16 HO-scale train set on one side of the Ned R. McWherter Agricultural Complex’s dirt floor and that same train exhibit, though having expanded since then, has remained a popular fixture in that same spot.
Nineteen years ago, Greenfield native and MTD employee Don Box volunteered to hand out candy to visitors of the train set. He remembers that Charles Davis was helping with the exhibit at the time and he also remembers being hooked from then on.
Over the years, with help from such workers as David Dildine, Anna Snider, Larry Harper and Mark Frazier, the preparation begins early – around Halloween – and the actual setup of the train exhibit at Santa’s Village takes between 12 and 15 hours.
What was once an HO-scale two-rail track has now grown into an O-scale three-rail track and Box and Stephen Chappell stand ready to answer questions from visitors that come through Santa’s Village.
“It can’t get any bigger,” Box laughed. “If it did I couldn’t get it out the door. We could redesign it, but it couldn’t get any bigger.”
Looking out at the colorful layout of the villages, mountains and rivers the train carefully meanders around, it’s easy to note the imagination that went into the creation of the exhibit.
The town that is labeled as “Anytown” could spark memories of a small home town. In fact, Box recalled, one visitor to the exhibit between four and five years ago who said the town reminded him of a place he used to live.
“I tell people this is any town they want it to be. There’s so much imagination that goes into this. So much detail. If you really look around, you notice different things all the time,” Box said.
Most of the buildings themselves were purchased, but the hills and mountains were constructed from newspaper and plaster. The bridges were built by hand. The water, looking very much like the real thing, is actually made of a substance called Realistic Water. Cardboard tubing serves as the foundation for a few of the town’s grain silos. The entire project took shape in the MTD warehouse and was completed in about a year.
This particular set only makes an appearance at Santa’s Village, but Chappell and Jimmy Carrington also bring a train set to Greenfield on Easter weekend.
As an enthusiast at an early age, Box had three train sets as a kid – two Line L freight trains and a passenger train.
This love of the railways has carried over into his adult years. There just seems to be something special and magical in the idea of an object of transportation traveling across mountains and valleys with the aid of a track – the spirit of adventure paired with the comfort, guidance and safety of a carefully constructed path.
“It’s enjoyable to watch,” Box said. “You become a kid when you do this.”
“There’s no telling how many people come to see this train set every year. Thousands of people,” he added. “I can’t tell you how many people have asked where they can get trains sets for their children or for themselves just from seeing this. It sparks an interest within them.”
Visitors can see the train set at Santa’s Village which will open today (Thursday) and stay open through Sunday in the Ned R. McWherter Agricultural Complex next to the UT Martin Skyhawk football stadium. Admission to the event is free, with a suggested $5 donation of non-perishable food or toys.

WCP 12.08.11

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