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>.  Howard Lamey sent this photo of a Bachmann-manufactured Dept. 56 On30 Mogul crossing his scratch-built tinplate-inspired bridge. Click to go to an article with free downloadable plans and instructions for this bridge. Visit Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> primer pageOn30 Display Trains
O Scale Accessories
O Gauge Christmas TrainsOn30 Christmas Trains

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.

  • 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.

  • Finally, if you would like to subscribe to our free newsletter about Christmas traditions, please join our Christmas TimesTM Mailing List.

In this Issue

This is the season when it's "okay" to have model trains and buildings. Back when houses had parlors, some families would to fill the whole parlor with trains and towns this time of year. German-speaking immigrants and their descendents, often called their impromptu display of holiday spirit a "putz," technically from the German word "to put," but related to the English word "putter," as in "Quit puttering (or putzing) around with those little houses and come to bed." In the Baltimore/DC area, families used the term "Christmas garden" for their elaborate displays, which usually included trains.

By the time I was 13, we lived in a post-war ranch house without a parlor, but there were always at least two loops of American Flyer track around our artificial tree.

Today, folks tend to go a little smaller, but there's no denying the thrill of seeing your little magic community come to life again (like Brigadoon, one reader says).

That said, even if you have a railroad that's up all year 'round, it's fun to do special things for various holidays. For this year, we've gone back to the century-old tinplate candy box houses that used to find their way to the Ives and Lionel railroads of our greatgrandfathers. Using plans and instructions by Howard Lamey and original graphics by Paul Race, our new storefront project should add a cheerful, if old-timey look to any mantel, Christmas village, or tinplate railroad.

This update also discusses the Race's efforts to get their outdoor railroad decorated for a Christmas-themed event. Here's an irony: there were supposed to be a couple dozen indoor railroads open for the same event, but most of them dropped out at the last minute. My garden railroading friends think I'm crazy for doing this six years in a row - but when even the inside guys think it's too much work, what does that tell you?

In the meantime, even though it's been too cold to run trains since the day we were open, a private "winter wonderland" greets me every morning when I get up and every night when I get home, and that's worth a lot. Imagine if your Christmas village was sixty feet long and had a couple dozen live trees covered with lights.

This year, our daughters who live on their own plan to set their Lionel trains out under their trees, so this really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As always, we have more projects in the works, so stay tuned.

Finally, please accept our wishes for a great rest of the year. And please enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming months.

Topics discussed in this update include:

Tinplate-Inspired, Christmas Themed StorefrontsNew Tinplate-Inspired Christmas Storefront Project

From and - Paul Race and Howard Lamey's "Tribute to Tinplate" projects allow anyone with a color printer and access to cardboard to make authentic reproductions of vintage lithographed buildings - the kind made a century ago to go with that era's tinplate trains. This project, based on century-old designs, has been "tweaked" for Christmas with holiday colors and seasonal business names. If you've already done the Halloween, Beachfront, and Patriotic versions of these, you have just about everything you need to justify leaving your "holiday village" up year-round.

To see the new Tinplate-Inspired Christmas-Themed storefront building project, click on the following link:

Preparing for 2013 Christmas Train DayPreparing for the 2013 Christmas Train Day

We've been running trains outside in November for six years now, adding things like Christmas lights on all the little trees, trains for kids to run, and lots of Christmas music. For many of our friend and family, it's become a "jump start" to the holiday season. By the time you get this newsletter, we'll have already held the event, but the report on it will come in the next newsletter.

To see our preparations for the 2013 Christmas Train Day, please click on the following link:

To see information about Southwest Ohio and Greater Cincinnati Christmas-themed open railroads that have yet to happen, please click the following link:

Cleaning Your Train's Wheels. Click to go to article.Cleaning Your Train's Wheels

This is the time of year when many folks realize that the train they're getting out of the attic is the same one they put up in a hurry last year. It runs erratically if at all, and never seems to have quite as much "pep' as it used to. There may be a lubrication issue, but more likely, the wheels and any little "shoes" that the train uses to pick up power have gotten dirty - crudded up by plastic left by the train's other wheels, or worse. Fortunately, this is a problem that usually only takes a few minutes to fix.

For instructions on safely and reliably cleaning your trains wheels for better operation, click the following link:

Click to jump to our Hawthorne Train and Village review and index pages.Hawthorne Village Update

Last month we published a long explanation for why Hawthorne Village's heirloom quality On30 trains are going fast. What we didn't cover was the villages. Yes, I know they're too small for garden railroads, but lots of folks on this list set up indoor holiday villages or Christmas railroads as well. The good news is over half of the Hawthorne village collections that were available at the beginning of November are still available. The bad news is that exactly one half of the Thomas Kinkade-inspired village collections that were available on November first are no longer available. Several other popular villages have sold out as well. Most of the trains associated with those villages are still available at this posting.

I know this must seem like a hard sell. But every year we get e-mails from folks who waited too long to order a Hathorne Village collection and tell me that if I don't locate a set for them somewhere I will have ruined their Christmas. (It doesn't help when I try to point out that Christmas is about more than buying stuff for people.) But "unavailable" means you can't get them any more. It also means that I can't get them for you.

By the way, we have never gotten an e-mail from a customer who is disappointed with the product. I know I'm happy with the pieces I own. And, no, they're not for sale.

For more information on featured trains and towns, with links to other Hawthorne Village products, please, click on the following link:

To jump directly to the Thomas Kinkade-inspired villages and towns, click the following link:

To jump directly to the Coca Cola-themed trains, which are also going fast, click the following link:

And for the sports fan in your family, you can always start an NFL, MLB, or NASCAR collection by clicking on the following link:

Click to go to article.Don't Throw Out Those Dead Christmas Light Strands (Yet)

This is a reminder that dead Christmas light strands don't go straight into the trash. If you can find someone who recycles them that's great. (Sometimes Home Depot does.) But you can also get useful project wire from them with a little bit of elbowgrease. In fact, since I started doing this, almost every building on my railroad is wired and hooked to the lighting circuit using this stuff.

Click on the following link to go to the article:

Thanksgiving, Then, and Then, and Now, (Updated for 2013)

From Family Christmas Online comes an updated version of our article about the origins of Thanksgiving and similar harvest festivals. This year I've become aware of several attempts to rewrite history, including false claims that the 1621 feast at Plymouth never happened at all. So I did a little digging and added an update and some additional resources, in case any of our readers have been confronted with the same "urban legends" (to use a euphemism). The short version is that the surviving Mayflower colonists did have a feast in 1621, to which the Wampanoag were belatedly invited. Unfortunately, that seems to be one bright spot in a dark history. Many ill-informed bloggers would like to eliminate even that bright spot. I would prefer to let it serve as an example of how we should treat people who aren't like us. It's also worth noting that the Wampanoag and every other culture that ever depended on agriculture had also thanked their Deities for good harvests for millennia, so the "Pilgrims" were just following a tradition as old as civilization.

To jump to the article, please click the following link:

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 on grow best when we all learn together.

In the meantime, please accept our very best wishes for a great autumn and holiday season!

Paul Race

To view the Trains-N-TownsTM newsletter for October, 2013, 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, 2013 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 new and vintage-style Lionel trains.
Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains

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