The smaller layout features “a vintage standard gauge” with “mostly Lionel trains” running on it, “basically items from the 1920s and ’30s, the kinds of trains you would have gotten under the Christmas tree,” Flanagan said. “That was the golden age of toy trains.”
The exhibit also includes kerosene train lanterns, donated by George Small of Cumberland, Maine, hanging from rafters above the layouts.
“They were a device for communication,” Flanagan said.
The lanterns have differently colored glass globes that would be waved by brakemen and conductors to signal their engineer or personnel at a station.
“Train Time” will be supplemented from Jan. 19 through 21 by a National Model Railroad Hub Division Modular Railroad and on Feb. 15 and 16 by a Lego train exhibit.
The museum’s 10 permanent model train exhibits were installed starting in 1997, when several new galleries at the museum were completed.
“We began to put trains and build layouts in what is now the Ben Merry Train Room,” said Ben Merry, who served as train curator prior to Flanagan. “By 2000 or 2001, it was pretty much filled, but not completed in any way.”
The Merry Room is downstairs at the museum, but there are also permanent historic displays and train layouts on the ground level.
These include The Arnott Railroad, which was created by a professor at Tufts and was originally housed at MIT.
As a holiday treat, a layout with a winter setting is assembled near the museum entrance every year around Christmas.
“A Mr. Baker called me from Salem and said, ‘I have a bunch of houses I built many years ago, would you like them?’” said Merry, of Danvers. “So around 2001, we decided to use them in a layout. He passed away before he saw it, that’s why we named it ‘Bakersville.’”
Merry, whose father gave him his first model train in 1927, said the collection at Wenham Museum is unique.