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Lifestyle

December 27, 2012

A rail good time

Annual train exhibit brings miniature worlds to the Wenham Museum

WENHAM — It’s train time again at the Wenham Museum.

“The kids all love trains, especially the young ones,” said Rob Flanagan, train curator at the museum.

That is why, as a museum devoted to the history of childhood and family life in New England, it always has toy trains on display.

But in addition, every two or three years, the museum brings in a new exhibit to complement its permanent model railroads.

“The goal is to bring in some visiting train layouts from outside the museum, as well as some educational features,” Flanagan said. “It’s part of a series of exhibits that started way back in the ’70s.”

For this year’s “Train Time 17” exhibit — the 17th the museum has held — Flanagan, who lives in Beverly, drew on his personal collection to construct a pair of layouts on the museum’s ground floor.

With help from Flanagan’s son Eric and friend and frequent volunteer Al Coughlin of Malden, the tracks, stations, trees and tiny human figures took two weeks to assemble.

One layout measures 4101/2 square feet and features Lionel model passenger trains, running on an O-gauge track that was popular in the 1950s and ’60s, Flanagan said. O-gauge is scaled at a quarter-inch to 1 foot.

Following the train around the track, visitors can imagine being a passenger, traveling through a familiar but alternative world.

“The big O-gauge goes through a varied layout,” Flanagan said. “There’s a sea scene at one end, with a North Station-type station. Then it fades off into a little bit more of a residential small town area, and finally winds up into a much more rural area and an airport.”

The layouts are typical of displays that, in the past, were commonly seen in department stores during the holidays.

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