Merry Christmas, Choo-choo!

Merry Christmas!


model train in Campbell

Model train in Campbell, CA

There is something nostalgic about miniature trains.  They harken back to a time when hobbyists tinkered with cars and rails, built sets and then sent scale versions of magnificent trains, happily around a track.

For at least a decade now, a local train enthusiast in nearby Campbell runs a set of model trains around the track…in his front yard. I haven’t had the courage to knock on his front door, but I would love to hear how he got started. I wonder if the family peaks out the window from time to time to see the joy they bring to others.

The Livingston home converts the front yard into a model train village. A massive platform fills the entire front yard, and stands about knee-high. There is a shorter platform circling the yard as well.  Three different trains run around the tracks, passing small villages, figurines and miniature versions of Christmas trees.

model train campbell Model train set

Some of the scenery has the vintage flavor of a train station in the 1940’s. Leaves drop from the massive tree above, lending a naturalized air.  Surprises include tiny figurines from the Pixar Car’s  movies, Star Wars and Mickey Mouse.

miniature train station

Mickey Mouse and Daisy wait at the train station

This year, there was an even bigger surprise: a delightful cat.

Campbell model train platform

The train platform occupies the entire front yard. (Can you see the cat)

I didn’t see the kitty at first. What an unexpected surprise.  Just before taking the last of my pictures I caught a glimpse of his fur.

kitty by the model train track

Look at this handsome face

Kitty stretched and yawned, then marched across the train tracks for a closer view of me. Far from being skittish, he was happy for a bit of TLC.

kitty near the water tower

Kitty near the water tower

cat yawning

Big yawn

He rubbed up against my hand, then jumped down for a pet.

When it was time to go, I carried him back to his spot. I didn’t want him to follow me into the street, and although he looks a bit cranky, he was entirely unmoved by the experience.

alys with cat

Returning kitty to his spot

I couldn’t help but drive by a week later to see if I could spot him once again. Sure enough he was sound asleep in the same spot. I think I smiled the rest of the way home.

The miniature train runs during the month of December on McBain Drive in Campbell, CA.

Merry Christmas! May your day be filled with your version of miniature trains, nostalgic treats and whatever makes you smile.

34 thoughts on “Merry Christmas, Choo-choo!

    • Thank you, Jan. I’m going to knock on there door and I’ll share this post with them. You’ve convinced me. I did a search before righting this and didn’t turn up a thing. If it’s a well kept secret, it shouldn’t be. It’s an absolute delight.

      And yes…those reindeer.

      Wishing you and yours a happy holiday and all the best in the coming year.


  1. That’s an amazing display–think of the fun they have, setting it up and coming up with those funny, quirky details! It’s a gift to the neighborhood. Here, of course, it would be covered with about a quarter inch of ice and several inches of new snow . . . and the cat would be inside, by the fire! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, Alys!


    • I’m with you, Kerry. They must have a wonderful time setting it up each year, and seeing all the families stop by. Writing about it has piqued my curiosity further. It truly is a gift to the neighborhood, and as you say, something that Californian’s can pull off. We’ve had only a trace of rain this month too so it’s not even getting wet. I hope you’re enjoying time by your fire and that you have time to rest after your busy holiday season. Merry Christmas!


  2. We’ve been enjoying the light displays locally, but this is much more fun and imaginative, plus you don’t need darkness to enjoy it! I hope your Christmas is wonderful; we’re coming to the end of ours, and unfortunately we seem to have come away from the family dinner with more food than we took!


    • We love looking at the local lights as well, though with the flu, we missed a lot this year. I’m so glad we saw the trains earlier this month when I took most of the photos. The trains weren’t running then, so we stopped by yesterday for a few more pics.

      Tis the season for excess food. Perhaps you can invite a few friends by to help you polish off the extras.


  3. What a wonderful, creative way to mark the season! It reminds me a bit of the huge displays our local department store Dayton’s used to create behind the plate-glass windows of its store downtown. I rather miss the sense of wistfulness and youthful wonder it used to provoke in me, even as an adult. You’re lucky to have something like that in your neighborhood, dear Alys — and the addition of a kitty is just icing on the cake, isn’t it? :). Merry Christmas to you and yours …


    • It must take hours to set the whole thing up. It’s clearly a labor of love. I’m going to brave up and knock on the door once and for all. There are lights in the tree and along the fence making it especially beautiful at nightfall.

      I remember when department stores made a big deal with their windows. I think some of the big cities still do, like New York and San Francisco. I always thought it would be fun to help create one. We just watched Elf with Will Ferrell, and one of my favorite scenes is the magic he creates in the Gimbal’s store.

      These things do provoke nostalgia, and that sense of a fantasy world I think we all might like to step into from time to time.

      Merry Christmas, Heidebee, your first in your new home. I’m so happy for you both. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • We just finished watching Elf too, dear Alys! My better half was laughing so loudly I was worried about disturbing the neighbors. Isn’t it a gem of a film? (Even if I could do without Will Ferrell’s singing in a couple of scenes, LOL.) You’re right that it does capture the sense of wonder too many of us lose as we grow older. So I do hope you will screw up the courage to go knock on your neighbor’s door! I’m certain he will be delighted to know you appreciate it. Well … thank you so much for your sweet wishes, and a very merry Christmas to you and yours. xo


  4. Dawwwww….Kit-tay! What a casual feline 😀 Nice of them to treat the neighbours and set out an entire village, that’s enormous! I like the aqua vintage trailor and truck combo 😀 Do they leave it up all winter? I’d guess California is the only place you could do this due to weather constraints. ❤ Hope you're having a wonderful day ((( Alys ))) ❤


    • That cat is something else. I was quite taken with him. I’m sure he has lots of admirers much like our Mousy. I thought of you when I photographed the vintage trailer. All the little details are charming. I’m pretty sure that it is up for all of December. I’ll have to do more drive-by’s to find out. We’ve had a mere trace of rain all month, so it’s looking great. They must “store” the engines in the engine house when the weather is inclement. Not that we worry about snow here.

      We’ve had a lovely, peaceful Christmas morning. I visited with Sharon for several hours yesterday. She was charmed and delighted with your gifts and left wearing the pretty x and o earrings. You’re the best. xo

      Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love those village setups with trains! Such a vintage feel with so much nostalgia. I would have security cameras and motion sensors on it as so much put outside anymore just walks away. That kitty could smell the cat lover in you. I’d bet hundreds of people go by and he never moves his camouflaged body. One little whiff of an Alys, and he’s begging for loving. They know. 🙂 I would think about knocking on the door too but I’m probably even more shy than you about doing it. They would probably spill all the beans if you were holding their cat in your arms. Cats know good trustworthy people. I’m glad you are all feeling better. Hoping you had a happy holiday. Giant hugs.


  6. Awesome. When I get to your neighborhood you must take me there. My dad loved trains and had an HO tack on a board that he set up on the pool table every November. My mother would put all her Village houses up and the grands loved it. He gave each of his grandsons a train one year and I now have the pool table and the track though I have never set it all up. It’s just not the same somehow but maybe if I ever have a grandbaby…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, thanks for sharing your train story. When you visit, assuming it’s November/December, we will go for a visit. How nice that your mom and dad enjoyed parts of the hobby together. I hope you get those hoped-for grandchildren so that setting it up is worthwhile.


  7. Oh, Alys! This just makes my heart smile! My dad loves Lionel trains. From his childhood trains through his happy retirement, enjoying his wonderful train collection, he has shown us the joy that these beautiful trains can add to one’s life! You really must stop there to introduce yourself one day. ‘Train People’ always love to share their treasured trains… and their stories. They would be so pleased to read your post! Hope your Christmas was wrapped in love and that your New Year will be filled with healthy, happy days, sweet friend! ♡


    • Dawn, I love that your dad is a train guy. When my oldest son was about three, he was obsessed with trains. We spent so much time going to museums, train shows, train exhibits and the like, and of course he had his own beloved Thomas the Tank Engine trains, books and videos. You won’t be surprised to learn that one of his tree ornaments is also a Lionel train engine. I will definitely visit, and I’ll bring my blog post. I’ll be sure to let you know what I learn. Thanks for encouraging me.


      • It’s such fun to know that your oldest son also loved trains when he was young. That’s where it begins! 😊 I have a copy of a letter that my dad wrote to Santa at a very young age wishing for his first train! We always had a train track around our Christmas tree while growing up. During his retirement, my dad has created a train room with a nice layout and collection of Lionel trains.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever!” I’m sure your son will always have sweet memories of trains. 😊 The next time you visit the garden railroad, I’m sure the ‘engineer’ will be so happy to share the story of his hobby with you! 💗

          Liked by 1 person

        • Dawn, what a treasure! I have so little ephemera from my parents, and none of it from their youth. I have one of my mom’s scrapbooks and several of my dads photo albums, but they were in their twenties by then. I saved my boys letters to Santa (well a copy anyway so Santa could get the original). 😉


    • Thank you, Cindy! It’s fun to find hobbyists that love their craft. It’s so engaging. You’re hobbies blend perfectly (travel and photography, along with gardening). What fun to be so good at what you love.


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