What is your Christmas railroad?

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What is your Christmas railroad?
Posted by Michael Vomvolakis on Friday, December 24, 2021 9:32 PM

Merry Christmas everyone.


Those well read or old enough will remember David P. Morgan’s article in the December 1977 issue of Trains Milwaukee Road - Lionel in 1:1 scale, in which D.P.M writes about his “Christmas railroad,” the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific. A Christmas railroad is a railroad that you most associate with the holiday.

My Christmas railroad is the Baltimore & Ohio. To my eyes, no other color pairs with white snow more than royal blue. It’s fitting, isn’t it? Christmas would be incomplete without trains, and railroading wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the B&O.

For my 4th birthday, my parents took me on a trip to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and the B&O quickly became my favorite railroad. Sensing my interest, for Christmas that year my Grandfather gave me an MTH O-Gauge “hi-ball” freight set. In fact, my very first memory of the holiday is of me running that set around the tree in our still very empty home. I was hooked on trains and the B&O.

My interest in trains and more specifically the B&O grew after that. Each Christmas I would get a new model train decked out in some form of royal blue. First, a GP7, then a GP30, an AS-616, coaches, boxcars, cabooses all joined my collection, and each year they would all go square underneath the tree.

Of course, being a stone's throw away from CSX's ex-B&O mainline led all the more credence to my interest in the railroad. I would spend many a winter break freezing my rear off trying to catch trains at Point of Rocks or Brunswick or Harper's Ferry. One trip, I remember the most fondly. It was a few days before Christmas and I was sitting on the Point of Rocks platform when it began to snow. Soon, a rush of eastbound coal trains came past, cutting through flakes like a hot knife through butter. It was pretty magical to a 9-year-old.

When I was 13 or 14, my family hosted a massive Christmas party. My Father had the idea of instead of setting up the trains around the tree, we set up a big display in the dining room. We easily spent an entire day putting this display together, complete with trees and snow and two loops of track. Of course, all the B&O models went right on it. It made quite a splash with our guests, who were often more interested in the display than anything else. 

However, as I grew older my fascination with the B&O waned. My "favorite railroad” became the Chesapeake & Ohio, then the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, Cotton Belt… But as the old adage goes "Every railfan has two favorite railroads, the Baltimore & Ohio, and another one,” and I was drawn back to the B&O. 

This year, we rushed our Christmas decorations. There was no time to set up a display or even put the train underneath the tree. We did everything literally at the last minute. (My Mother was still putting out decorations when the first guest arrived for our little get-together.) As is tradition in our family, we opened some presents this Christmas Eve, then sat down to a nice meal. After the festivities were over and friends and family went home, I went down to the basement to my layout. I got out the “hi-ball” freight set, the GP30, the AS-616, the boxcars, and the coaches… I found the leftover scenery from the display a few years ago and plopped them down on the layout. I then started running. A wide smile came to my face - the Baltimore & Ohio, my Christmas railroad.


So what is your Christmas railroad?


-Michael Vomvolakis


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Posted by matthewsaggie on Friday, December 24, 2021 10:06 PM

B&O, followed by the Western Maryland 

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Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, December 25, 2021 12:46 AM

My hometown C&IM.  Green diesels with red lightning stripes.  Christmas colors all year.

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.
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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, December 25, 2021 8:32 AM

The Adirondack, of course, born of many years of seeing the youngsters meeting with that right jolly old elf, as well as being an engineer, carrying them to the "North Pole," occasionally through snow storms, and usually through the snow.

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Posted by Ulrich on Saturday, December 25, 2021 8:38 AM

VIA Rail.. lots of fond memories of taking the train home for Christmas. And one memory in particular sticks out. It was the day before Christmas in 1993,  and for the first time I was driving home for Christmas. The weather was bad and getting worse as I was driving along.. my car broke down on highway 401 about three hours west of Montreal. Unknown to me, the highway was closed shortly thereafter, and I found myself stranded. A couple of hours into my ordeal on OPP officer arrived and took me to the nearest train station. The station was packed with people who had been caught in the blizzard..some of them injured due to having run off the road. It was a pretty good feeling to get on that train..the staff handed out sandwiches, coffee, and blankets.  Long story short, I rode the rest of the way home on VIA and arrived at Gare Central in Montreal late Christmas eve. I haven't been on a train in years but well miss getting off the train and making my way up to the station concourse where my parents were eagerly anticipating my arrival  every year. Now they are gone, and I nolonger go home. The tides have shifted.. Guelph is now "home", and I and my wife are the ones who are now eagerly  awaiting our kids' arrival home for Christmas...and sometimes they come by train.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, December 25, 2021 9:48 AM

My favorite Christmas railroad?  That's a little tough to say.  The town I grew up in, Paramus NJ, didn't have any railroads running through it.

However, we were bracketed on both sides by the Erie, or I should say by the time my memory seriously begins the Erie-Lackawanna.

No matter.  The commuter coaches still said "Erie" on the side for years after the merger.  

The town my father grew up in, Tenafly NJ, is kind of my adopted home town.  During the Christmas season the downtown area (Paramus didn't have one) was wonderfully decorated for the holidays, and especially the magnificent Erie station dating from the 1870's.  If I was lucky, and frequently was, I'd see one of the commuter trains "Dashing through the snow," the green passenger cars complementing the scene perfectly. 

The Erie-Lackawanna's gone of course, so's the active commuter traffic through Tenafly, and we left NJ 34 years ago, but the videos railfans shoot of NJ Transit trains in the winter on other still-active lines in the area show the magic is still there and still brings out the "True Believers." 

My favorite Christmas railroad?  The "Weary Erie." 

My second favorite?  The "Lionel Lines" circling under the Christmas tree!

God bless Joshua Lionel Cowan!

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, December 25, 2021 11:10 AM

Michael Vomvolakis
Merry Christmas everyone.

Great story Michael, and well-written!

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, December 25, 2021 9:06 PM

My favority Christmas RR is the New York Central, as I rode those trains growing up in the northern suburbs of NY City.  I remember riding on the Harlem Division around Xmas, and seeing freights on the Putnam Division on Xmas car trips into the City.  My second favorite was the PRR thru the Pennsylvania mountains which I rode a couple of Christmas times home from college.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, December 25, 2021 9:34 PM

Being a part of a family whose lineage traces back to one that was a Apprentice Carpenter for the company and participated in the parade the was held to celebrate the Laying of the First Stone on July 4, 1828 - The Baltimore and Ohio is the one and only.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!


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