You Are Here.
Jump to other pages.
The official e-newsletter of Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> and Big Christmas Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup>.  World-class putz builder Howard Lamey built all of the buildings and lampposts in this photo. There's a link to Howard's site, which contains all of the instructions and graphics further down the page. Click for bigger picture. Visit Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> primer pageOn30 Display Trains
O Scale Accessories
O Gauge Christmas TrainsOn30 Christmas Trains

Click to see exclusive, licensed train collections in your favorite team colors!

Written by Paul D. Race for Big Indoor TrainsTM and Big Christmas TrainsTM

Click to sign up for the 'Trains-N-Towns<sup><small>TM</small></sup>' newsletter, with articles about display villages, indoor railroading, and much more

Click to see new and reissued Lionel trains to celebrate a century-old tradition.

Trains-N-TownsTM, the Official Newsletter of,, and

This newsletter is for people who like O scale, O gauge, S scale, and Christmas trains, including people who combine On30 or O gauge trains with collectible villages. It is produced in conjunction with the Big Indoor TrainsTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, and HalloweenTrains.comTM web sites.
  • If you did not get this Trains-N-TownsTM newsletter through your own e-mail, and you would like to get the newsletters in the future, please join our Trains-N-TownsTM Mailing List

  • On the other hand, if you don't want to receive our e-mail updates, please e-mail me with a "Please Unsubscribe" message (worded any way you wish), and we will graciously remove you from our list.

  • Also, if you would like to subscribe to our free newsletter for garden railroaders (people running big trains outside), please join the Family Garden Trains Mailing List. By the way, you can subscribe to either, both, or neither, and we will just be glad to be of service, no matter what you decide.

In this Issue

Most years, I try to get the December newsletter out nice and early to give folks lots of time to think about things before Christmas. This year, we've been so busy, it is all we can do to get them out before Christmas. So consider this a Christmas card of sorts.

By the way, rumors that we left off finishing our newsletter because we were counting on the Mayan Apocalpse are totally false - we really have been busy.

One thing that has kept us busy all year is site maintenance that isn't always obvious on the surface, but which will allow our sites to continue to grow without continuously hitting bandwidth or HD space limitations.

Another thing that kept us busy in October and November was the preparation for our fifth annual Christmas-themed open railroad, lit trees, Christmas music and all. Yes, I know this is the Indoor Trains newsletter, and the article is about an outdoor railroad, but we hope our photos boost your Christmas spirit this year.

Now we're turning our sites toward this spring - a May regional NMRA convention and a June National Garden Railroading convention. We hope to have open railroads for both, and maybe do some presentations at the latter - we'll see.

In this letter we add a tribute to some folks who have helped us immeasurably with the cardboard Christmas house and tinplate train parts of this site, one of whom, we unfortunately lost this year.

From our garden trains side, we also "borrowed" an article on building a temporary outdoor railroad. It's included here because I occasionally get requests from indoor train owners (usually Lionel owners) who ask me what it would take to put a temporary railroad up outside as part of a Christmas display. So in addition to templates and instructions for garden trains, we have included templates and instructions for O, On30, S(AF), and even HO. Sorry, N-scalers, I just couldn't see that happening.

As always, we have several more projects in the works which weren't quite done in time for this newsletter, so stay tuned.

Finally, please accept our wishes for a great Holiday week and a prosperous and joyous 2013. And please enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming months.

Topics discussed in this update include:

We'll Miss You, "Papa" Ted!

For the Christmas village lovers and collectors on this list, we have some sad news to report. Our friend Ted Althof, who spent thousands of hours cataloging the history of those cardboard Christmas ("putz") houses, passed away in October from cancer. A year ago, Ted asked us to put an archive of his site on our site, so his life's work wouldn't be lost (as has happened to several other "online encyclopedias"). He was so pleased to see his work respected in this way, he even joined our discussion forums until his health gave out. If you want to see our announcement about Ted on the archive site, click on the following link:

Click to go to article.Almost-Free Building Lighting

Use inexpensive supplies and discarded Christmas lights to create building lighting that is all but free. But don't wait until after Christmas to pick up the crucial part - 12v replacement bulbs for Christmas light strands.

To see the article, please click the link below.

Click to go to article.Pack-O-Fun Putz House Plans

Here's an interesting blast from the past - a 1960s recycling-oriented article on how to make your own cardboard Christmas village, using recycled materials. You'll never guess what they expected you to use, but you can make do with other sources of cardboard today. Yes, there are lots and lots of free plans and instructions at the "Howard's How-To" section of But this approach is truly unique.

To see the article, please click the link below.

Click to go to article.Christmas Train Day Report: Our Fifth Christmas-Themed Open Railroad

On November 10, 2012, our garden railroad, the New Boston and Donnels Creek was open to the public, in conjunction with the NMRA show in Dayton a week earlier. We had several trains running, including three trains the kids could run, lots of Christmas lights, Christmas music, outdoor movies, popcorn-machine popcorn and other treats, and lots and lots of helpers and visitors. A good time was had by all.

For the full report, click on the following link:

Click to go to article.Building a Temporary Outdoor Railroad

Ever wish you could set up a small, temporary outdoor railroad for a special occasion, such as Christmas decorating, a kid's party, train club publicity, or a neighborhood block party or street fair? Or do you wish you had a garden railroad, but you rent your house? Turns out, it's pretty simple to make a portable outdoor railroad that you can set up and tear down again and again, and move in the average hatchback.

To see the article, please click the link below.

Other Christmas Village and Collectible Resources

A few inches up we mentioned the sad loss of "Papa Ted Althof," whose curious mind and diligent research captured almost everything we "know" about those cardboard Christmas communities that graced so many house for 50 years before they were relegated to the attics, but are now coming back into "vogue."

I should pass on that I first met Ted through a number of mutual friends, each of which is a "putz" house builder, collector, or historian in his or her own right. Their help has been invaluable as I documented Christmas-villages and related topics over the last few years, so I want to give them a public thank-you the best way I know how.

  • Click to go to Howard's site.Howard Lamey, who introduced me to the modern world of putz house collecting, restoration, and construction. Howard's web page has many photos and lots of free, downloadable plans, graphics and instructions for building your own cardboard Christmas houses and more. And if you want a custom putz house for any reason, Howard can make it for you. To visit Howard's site, please click the link below.

  • Click to go to Maria's blog about Christmas collectibles, etc.Maria Cudequest, who is fascinated by "all things Christmas" and has often helped me by answering our readers' questions about some obscure Christmas decoration or another. Her blog is a collection of links to vintage Christmas collectibles, graphics, and stories. She's also run series about vintage railroad graphics and toy trains. If you start checking her old "issues," be prepared to get lost in a wealth of Christmas things you remember with delight, Christmas things you barely remember at all, and Christmas things you didn't even know existed but are glad to encounter now.

  • Antoinette Stockenberg is a novelist whose annual cardboard Christmas villages have become legendary. Not only because they're so artistic and attractive, but also because she can't help imagining the story behind every figure in the scene, and, sometimes writing them out in her notes. The visual art of her displays is so unique that they are frequently "borrowed" by other sites (including mine, but I always ask first). But to get the full effect, you should take a little time visiting her miniature world. Click on the following link, then select 2012 to see this year's iteration.

Click to see Antoinette's mantel for 2012

Actually, there are lots more folks who could go here, including Tom Hull, Ed "Ice" Berg, Fred Fox, and Pete Oehman who've each either helped me or my readers out this year. But the three above have been especially helpful behind the scenes. Every month I get dozens of requests from total strangers to give their sites free advertising. I've even had people join forums just so they can advertise their Etsy or eBay stores. I always shut that stuff down - but these folks deserve all the traffic I can send their way. Even if you're not into putz houses and Christmas collectibles, I hope you understand my desire to say "thank you" right out loud. On the other hand, if you would like to get "lost in wonder" this holiday season, these are three pretty good places to start.

In the meantime, take this as a reminder that we are always aware and thankful for help and encouragement from our similarly-minded friends.

Click to go to article.'Nudder Scam: The Fake Schoolteacher Request

Here's an example of the requests for free advertising that I just alluded to. A commercial site is apparently working with professional scammers to get free advertising under false pretences. If you have a web page of any kind, you need to see this, lest you find yourself unknowingly promoting fraudulent activities, if not a criminal enterprise. Or if you just like to see the lengths people will go to to get something "free."

To see the article, please click the link below.

Keep in Touch

Each month, we get more interest in this newsletter, in the site, and in the trains and towns we discuss. We welcome your questions as indicators of what we should be working on next (also, we always try to answer reader questions quickly). In addition, if you have any photos, tips, or articles you'd like to share with your fellow hobbyists, please let us know. All of the hobbies we report grow best when we all learn together.

In the meantime, please accept our very best wishes for a great holiday week and a prosperous and joyful 2013!

Paul Race

To view the Trains-N-TownsTM newsletter for October, 2012, click on the following link:

To read more, or to look at recommended Indoor or Garden Railroading products, you may click on the index pages below.

Visit our BIG Train Store<sup><small>TM</small></sup> Buyer's Guide Pages

Home Pages
Reading Index Pages
Buyer's Guide Pages
Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page Return to Family Garden Trains Home page Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads

Note: Family Garden TrainsTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, Big Indoor TrainsTM, Big Train StoreTM, and Trains-N-TownsTM are trademarks of Breakthrough CommunicationsTM ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
Big Indoor Trains(tm) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

For more information, contact us.

Click to see exclusive, licensed train and town collections featuring Disney characters and graphics.!