Making Tracks for Holiday Fun

Tom Giffey

Long before anyone had ever heard of Legos, Pokemon, or Nintendo, kids waited anxiously to see if Santa would leave a toy train under the Christmas tree. Electric toy trains made their debut around 1900, and quickly became more sophisticated as model railroading caught on as a hobby for kids and adults alike. In this 1950 picture – which looks perfect enough to have appeared in a toy catalog – John and Gordon Barland play with an electric train set in their family’s Eau Claire living room (their father, George, and sister, Janet, are in the background). If this looks fun, you can enjoy an awesome display of toy trains at the Chippewa Valley Museum on select days between Nov. 25 to Dec. 27. The museum’s 384-square-foot Holiday Toy Trains display features three tinplate toy trains – some of them originals from the 1910-1940 era – chugging along on three separate tracks around a miniature landscape that includes log cabins, a dairy farm, and even Fort McCoy. If you want a special treat, come on Tuesday evenings, when the auditorium lights will be lowered and the mini trains and buildings will be lit up for the Night Trains event. The exhibit opens Friday, Nov. 25, from 1-5pm, and will be open through Dec. 27 on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm, on Sundays from 1-5pm, and on Tuesdays from 5-8pm. Admission on weekends is $9 for adults and $6 for kids ages 5 and up, and includes regular museum admission. On Tuesday evenings, admission to Night Trains is $2 per person (admission to the museum is always free Tuesday evenings). To learn more, visit or call (715) 834-7871.


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