The Duke Energy/CSX Holiday Train Celebrates 64 Years November 2, 2009
Since 1946, more than 9 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 Dreaming of Sugar Plums, Lollipops and Gingerbread. The centerpiece is a curved bridge, decorated with cookies, candy canes and many other sweet treats. On one end there is a cookie bakery with an extra large chimney. Surrounding the bridge are snow-laden trees and dozens of elves and gnomes decorate the area.
Kickoff of the exhibit historically begins on the day after Thanksgiving. To meet that date this year, the assembly and testing of the display has already begun. A small group of Duke Energy employees and retirees spend hundreds of hours throughout the year handcrafting replacement parts and adding to the collection of miniature buildings and structures. These volunteers 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 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 Cutoff" 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. 27, through Thursday, 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
Duke Energy’s Ohio operations deliver safe, reliable and competitively priced electricity to approximately 680,000 electric customers and natural gas service to approximately 420,000 customers.
Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power companies in the United States, supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 4 million U.S. customers in its regulated jurisdictions. The company has approximately 35,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Midwest and the Carolinas, and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky. In addition, Duke Energy has more than 4,000 megawatts of electric generation in Latin America, and is a joint-venture partner in a U.S. real estate company.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 500 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at: www.duke-energy.com.
Duke Energy Holiday Model Train Display Fact Sheet
- The first year of the display was in 1946.
- The display is one of the largest portable models in the world, measures 36½ feet by 47½ feet.
- The Duke Energy building is located on the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets (139 East Fourth Street) in Downtown Cincinnati. Access to downtown is available via either Interstate 71 or Interstate 75.
- Hours of Operation - The train display operates Friday, Nov. 27, through Thursday, 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.)
- Last year, the model train display had more than 300,000 visitors and 39 countries from around the world.
- The trains are authentic “O” gauge in which a quarter inch on the model is equivalent to one foot on a real train; rail cars, tracks and buildings are 1/48th actual size.
- The Duke Energy display includes approximately 300 train cars and 50 locomotives on 1,000 feet of track.
- During the holiday season, the trains will travel more than 100,000 scale miles.
- While these trains may seem to travel slowly, they are traveling at actual scale speed. The basic three-track loop is 1/48th of a mile around, representing a full mile of real track. If a model train travels that loop in one minute, it is traveling at 60 miles per hour – not at all slow for a real train.
- This holiday tradition began in 1946 in partnership with the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. (Having been chartered in 1827 as the first U.S. railroad for the public transportation of passengers and freight, the B&O Railroad is often called the "father of American railroads.")
- In 1936, the B&O Railroad introduced its first model railroad. That original model, with its three main loops, its locomotives and cars, is just part of Duke Energy lobby display.
- The portable model grew, as the railroad grew, through the 40s, the 50s and into the 60s.
- More information about the holiday model train display is available on the Duke Energy website at www.duke-energy.com/train/.