It's that time of year again. We're gearing up to start constructing our annual Christmas display for the 2017-18 season at the Redford Theatre in Detroit, MI.
For those that don't know, I volunteer at the non-profit Redford Theatre in Detroit. The Redford is a historic 1928 neighborhood movie theater that has been under renovation and restoration by its owners, the Motor City Theatre Organ Society since they purchased it in the late 1970's. It's unique because it contains the beautiful 3/10 Barton Theatre pipe organ that was installed in it back in 1928, which is one of only two theater organs in their original locations in the City of Detroit. Organs were designed to suit the theaters they were installed in and very few are left in their original settings. They were used in the silent film era to accompany silent movies. Since 2011, I've been constructing the annual Christmas train and village display in the orchestra pit. A friend and coworker, Mark, joined me in 2013, eventually got suckered into volunteering with the MCTOS and is now the theater's operations manager. The train display has been an annual tradition that was started by a group of members back in the 1990's. Various issues prevented that group from doing their G scale display in the early 2000's, and I picked up where they left off a couple years later with my O gauge display. We started with an 8'x12' display in 2011, which grew to an 8'x20' display a year or so later.
It's still a little early yet, but we're already planning things for this year, and looking to start construction sometime next week for a mid-November reveal (during our showing of Trains, Planes and Automobiles).
At the end of our last season, we received a pretty significant donation of various Christmas village buildings and other items from the builder of the original G scale display. I purchased many of the illuminated trees and other decorations he used the year prior. Our display has gradually turned into a big group effort. Various theater members have assisted us with packing/unpacking buildings, donating items to us, and just general moral support during the construction. A couple years ago the Detroit Historical Museum donated a pretty nice portion of a collection that was surplus to them to us for use at the theater (Mark and I are members of the DHM Glancy Trains modular train group). We have also received donations from a local hobby shop owner who is a big supporter of the theater. The layout has been featured on several news pieces on the theater, and an older layout is actually prominently located in the Google Map's interior tour of the theater.
This year we plan to possibly expand the display slightly to accommodate the added structures and accessories we obtained last year. We also obtained a Lionel LCS Wifi module to go with my Legacy base to give us more operational options. The layout is set up to be run by simply turning the power on at the lighting board in the rear of the auditorium, but we do like to operate some of our fancier locomotives on evenings we work. It's tough to run the light board and then run down to the display to power things on from the Legacy remote, so the wifi phone capability will be a nice addition (plus we like new technology )
Also, this year forum member AZGARY donated around a dozen buildings and other items for our display. The theater is special to him because it was his neighborhood theater growing up, and he and his late wife spent a lot of time seeing shows there. We are very thankful for his donation and I have a few ideas in mind for expanding the layout slightly to accommodate them.
Here is a video of last years layout in operation:
I will also add this little pitch here. If anybody has any surplus trains (locomotives or cars), accessories, Christmas village buildings or other interesting items that they might be willing to donate, I'd be more than happy to pay for shipping. Since the theater is a non-profit organization, we can also give you a receipt for tax write off purposes. We've slowly been trying to obtain trains that are specifically for use at the theater, to reduce some of the wear and tear on my personal collection. We've been working on converting a storage space in the theater into an area to store and repair items out of the collection that is owned by the theater.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates as we move forward with this years layout.