(Model) trains are back at Reading Terminal Market

Gerald (rear), Gregory (right), and Dominick Tasian, 3, study Reading Terminal Market's model railroad.
Gerald (rear), Gregory (right), and Dominick Tasian, 3, study Reading Terminal Market's model railroad. (RYAN S. GREENBERG / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 25, 2012

For Tom George, 43, a trip to Philadelphia with his family has been a staple of the start of the Christmas season. George now lives in Oakton, Va., but gladly travels the 150-plus miles up I-95 to his childhood home.

"We come up for the light show every Christmas," George said. "My dad worked at Wanamakers, so I was actually able to play with the lights in between the shows when I was a kid."

Although the light show at what is now a Macy's has been a Philadelphia institution since its debut in 1955, a more recent holiday exhibition is bringing together generations of families like the Georges.

On Friday, the Reading Terminal Market opened its "Holiday Railroad" model train display, which has been showcased annually since 2004. Situated in the Piano Court, the 500-square-foot model, with its snowcapped hills and dwellings, includes track nearly a third of a mile long.

Because of the display, the George family decided to add the market to the list of stops on its holiday tour of Philadelphia.

Patriarch Tom George Sr., 65, had an interest in model trains that he passed on to his son Tom Jr., who now shares that same passion with his own son, Thomas.

"I have a model train table in my basement," said Thomas, 5, as he peered through the Plexiglas display Friday into a wintry world of trains. "I'm getting some ideas for what to put on there next."

Model trains have long been Christmas decorations in homes throughout the country, and the market is tying into its association with transportation and the Reading Co.

"We were initially inspired by our connection to the Reading Railroad," said Paul Steinke, general manager of the market. "It was our hope that the trains would attract families during the holidays and give kids something fun to look at."

Train enthusiasts of all ages flocked to the market Friday to reminisce about their own collections and explore the display.

"I had trains growing up, and I fortunately still have most of them," said Steve Anthony, 70, of Media. "Some of them are over 60 years old. We displayed them at my house around Christmastime, and I bring my grandchildren here every year."

"My son has the Polar Express train at home, and he's been enjoying looking at all of the different ones they have here," said Ryan Slaven, 31, of Philadelphia. "We stumbled onto the display last year, and decided then to make plans to come back and see it again this year."

The display is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Dec. 31, closing only on Christmas with the rest of the market.

"Model trains have always been near and dear to my heart, and I'm glad to see that the children of today are enjoying them as much as I did when I was a kid," Steinke said.

Contact Joe Trinacrica at 215-854-2771 or jtrinancria@phillynews.com.

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