The Duke Energy/CSX Holiday Train Celebrates 62 Years October 8, 2007
Since 1946, more than nine million people have visited Duke Energy’s lobby at Fourth and Main streets to see one of the world’s largest model train displays.
Many adults who once visited the train as children now bring their children and grandchildren to experience the wonder of the display. The Duke Energy/CSX Holiday Model Train Display has truly become an annual Cincinnati tradition for many families.
The theme of this year’s display is Winter Dreams. The centerpiece is a snow covered gazebo in the town square. A reindeer drawn sleigh is heading towards town full of large white snowballs that will decorate square. Surrounding the area are people frolicking in the snow enjoying the holiday spirit in the air.
The display kickoff historically begins the day after Thanksgiving. To meet that date this year, the assembly and testing of the display has already begun. A small group of volunteer Duke Energy employees and retirees support the display, spending hundreds of hours throughout the year handcrafting replacement parts and adding to the collection of miniature buildings and structures. These volunteers also keep the display running through the holidays until the end of December.
Those Marvelous Miniature Trains
As you watch the miniature trains travel by, you'll discover almost every variety of railroad car that ever traveled our country's railways. You'll see many kinds of powerful locomotives, ranging from the vintage steam-driven models to the more modern diesel-powered streamliners. There are pint-sized passenger trains featuring coach cars, dining cars with tiny tables and chairs, Pullman cars complete with bunks, dome-topped observation cars, baggage cars and postal cars for carrying the U.S. Mail.
The display also features model freight trains with cars capable of carrying almost any cargo imaginable. There are box cars, flat cars, tank cars, low-sided open gondola cars, cattle cars, coal cars, piggy-back cars for hauling trucks, and of course, the ever-popular "little red caboose."
As you compare the older cars to their more modern versions, you'll notice important changes in technology. The refrigerator cars, for example, range from the more primitive models that kept perishables cold with giant blocks of ice, to newer models with built-in refrigeration systems.
To spot one of the work trains, look for the "big hook" car with its large crane. Responsible for railroad maintenance and emergency runs, the work trains even include camp cars with sleeping and cooking facilities for the hard-working crew.
Little Buildings by the Train Tracks
Most of the visitors will quickly recognize miniature homes, shops, factories and farm buildings in the model railroad countryside. But, unless you're familiar with railroad operations, you may not recognize some of the important buildings and structures that are typically found along the railroad right-of-way. Section houses, which are living quarters with tool sheds, function as work locations for railroad crews known as section gangs, responsible for maintenance on specific sections of track.
To keep steam-powered locomotives rolling, it takes a lot of coal to fire the boiler and plenty of water to produce the steam. So, all along the railroad, you'll see miniature coal tipples – the coal storage stations with chutes for filling the locomotive's coal tender – as well as numerous water tanks.
The sand bins serve an important purpose, too, providing trains with sand to be dumped along the track for traction when the rails get wet or icy.
At the railroad terminal, centrally located to serve both the passenger terminal and the freight yards, you'll see additional coal, water and sand facilities as well as the large roundhouse and turntable. The roundhouse functions as a service garage for locomotives. Within the roundhouse, flues are cleaned, equipment is checked and the train is prepared for its next run. The turntable swings the iron horses around, sending them out on the proper track for their next journey.
Railroad stations, or depots, are also found all along the route – varying in size and scope depending on the size of the town. These are, of course, where passengers boarded the trains and where they met their family and friends when they reached their destination.
What This Miniature World Offers
This tradition began in partnership with the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. Having been chartered in 1827, the B&O Railroad is often called the ‘father of American railroads’ as the first U.S. railroad for the public transportation of passengers and freight. During the early years, the B&O model trains represented exactly what was traveling the real tracks. Every time the B&O took an older locomotive out of service or added a new car to its system, a miniature reproduction was removed or added to the model. Then, in the 1950s, B&O made the decision to bring back some of the retired models for their historical value. So, today, you see early steam locomotives operating on the same tracks with the more modern diesel engines.
Like the real thing, B&O models were built to last. Always handmade, sometimes from the same materials as their life-size prototypes, the models were hand-painted and hand-lettered with authentic railroad paints. The miniature B&O trains are faithful reproductions of the real trains down to the smallest details.
This train display simulates the Cumberland (Maryland) Division of the old B&O, still part of the route traveled by today's CSX Transportation. That's where the main Northwest and Southwest lines, from Chicago and from St. Louis, come together. While the display doesn't represent any particular point on the line or any specific part of the Maryland countryside, it is designed to demonstrate a variety of actual train operations in a landscape typical of the Cumberland region. The elevated area simulates the "Magnolia Cut-off" which is known as the "High Line" and is used exclusively for freight service.
Location, Dates and Hours of Operation, and Website
The Duke Energy building is located on the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets in Downtown Cincinnati. Access to downtown is available via either Interstate 71 or Interstate 75.
The train display runs from Friday, Nov. 23, through Monday, Dec. 31. Normal hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. (Closed Christmas day.)
More information about the holiday model train display is available on the Duke Energy website at www.duke-energy.com/train/.
Digital (JPEG format, 200 ppi) publication quality photographs of last year’s model train display are also available on the website at: http://www.duke-energy.com/community/programs/news-quality-photos.asp.
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