Friday, November 26, 2010
Model trains roll into America on Wheels
Train Time Charity Holiday Exhibit opens today at Allentown
BY PETE BREKUS The Express-Times
Nothing ushers in the Christmas season quite like model
Unless there are more trains. The model train engineers
are practically taking over the America on Wheels Museum,
5 N. Front St., Allentown. Displays will range from your
father's O-gauge Lionel and American Flyer-type traditional
trains to a Thomas the Tank Engine display to trains made
entirely of Lego building blocks.
The museum's second annual Train Time Charity Holiday Exhibit
opens today and runs through the end of the year.
Engineers and conductors from Train Time in Whitehall Township
will coordinate freight and passenger trains as they wend
their way through the museum's galleries.
Many of the displays are interactive, says Bob Metz, Train
Time director and the force behind the train-themed exhibits.
"Kids love to push buttons and see all the operating accessories
at work," Metz says.
"They can push a button and see the engineers, firemen,
conductors and track workers in action." One interactive
layout allows children to hoist ore cars from a mine then
load the ore onto waiting gondolas.
"The kids can even set off a series of explosions in the
mine," Metz says. The Train Time exhibit runs in conjunction
with the annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots
campaign. Visitors are asked to bring toys to donate to
children in need.
"Our mission is to fill the bed of the antique Mack truck
with presents put on an extremely long train that goes around
the museum lobby," Metz says.
"Kids really love to see the presents pile up there."
Another highlight with a holiday connection is the antique
taxicab used in the classic 1946 film "It's a Wonderful
Life," according to Linda Merkel, museum executive director.
Driven by the character Ernie, the cab was used to shepherd
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) about the mythical New England
town of Bedford Falls. The taxi is on special loan from
the Nicola Bulgari collection of vintage American automobiles.
"Collectors have always been very supportive," Merkel says.
"The taxicab will be on display and we will be playing the
movie in our orientation theater."
Rounding out the show is a collection of vintage British
cars. Called "The British are coming!" the display includes
a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000, a 1962 Austin Mini Cooper, a
1952 Jaguar XK-120 a 1950 MG-TD, a 1967 Morgan +4 and a
1961 Triumph TR3.
Merkel says America on Wheels is ready for the holiday
rush. "We're excited," she says. "The trains made of Legos
are new this year. We know kids like to tinker and seeing
trains made of Legos is pretty cool. Last year we had over
5,000 people. It was fantastic."
Metz is proud of the efforts of his Train Time crew and
volunteers in getting the train layouts up and running.
"Christmas without trains just wouldn't be right," Metz
says. "Like Toys for Tots, it shows that Christmas is about
Museum admission is $9, $6 for students and seniors and
free for children 12 and under. For more information, call
610-432-4200 or visit americaonwheels.org.