The First National Bank’s renovation of its building on the Santa Fe Plaza has produced a holiday present for the History Museum. Starting this week, the bank’s cherished model train display has chugged across the street and is on view through December 31 in the History Museum’s main lobby for visitors to enjoy.
Come see it for free from 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday.
Here’s some background on the train: Sometime in the mid-1950s, bank employees Don Van Soelen and Antonio Romero set up a Lionel railroad around a Christmas tree in the bank’s lobby. Another employee, Rollie Abrahams, built an adobe home, church and station still in use today.
Since then, the display has grown to include a maroon roof Lackawanna Train Master, a wide-door Lionel Lines Streamliner baggage car, and a set of Santa Fe F3 diesels sporting the famous “Warbonnet” paint scheme. The Albuquerque Society of HO Modular Engineers-Santa Fe Division began helping with upkeep and operation in the 1990s. Volunteers expanded the layout to 8 x 20 feet of four independent 0-gauge loops, and added a Greenleaf Victorian Village on one end and an adobe village on the other, a ski lift and skating rink, and an operating milk-car platform.
The bank purchased a special Holiday Train with a musical boxcar and a gondola car where an elf chases a reindeer, and another train modeled on artist/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express.
Members of the Santa Fe Model Railroad Club will volunteer to run the trains as often as possible. We’re looking forward to the children and their families certain to come our way over the holidays – and hoping to entice them into staying for our exhibitions. Here’s an idea for those of you living south of Santa Fe: Take the New Mexico Railrunner to the City Different, then come to the History Museum for a full day of indulging your inner Casey Jones.