2017-18 Redford Theatre Christmas Layout

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.



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Original Post

We always look forward to your efforts Jake, keep us posted. Gave away all our Xmas Village buildings some years back. Are you running more O27 size equipment rather than full scale? Let us know if you have any specific needs.

I like how you have really gotten a hold on this.

I am not sure why the Legacy remote wouldn't work from the lighting booth. It's on the same frequency band as WiFi to communicate with the base. It does make easier to have multiple remotes when you can use an iDevice.

Look at some of MartyE's posts. He uses a standalone router to connect the wifi module to create a secure network. (Like his demonstration table for the York legacy meetings).This prevents someone with the app on their device from accessing the layout control.

I am looking forward to seeing this season's rendition.


Arctic Railroad

BobbyD posted:

We always look forward to your efforts Jake, keep us posted. Gave away all our Xmas Village buildings some years back. Are you running more O27 size equipment rather than full scale? Let us know if you have any specific needs.

Thanks!  Yes, on typical evenings we run O-27 stuff.  On the evenings we're present to operate trains we sometimes like to run our nicer scale models, but we never leave those unattended.  

We received a Williams SD45 last year from a local hobby shop owner, which is one of the best running engines we've had on the display.  It would be nice to have another similar locomotive (Williams diesel) so they can be rotated in and out of service to avoid too much wear and tear.  The locomotives we received from the Detroit Historical Society a couple years ago are great, but they're all MPC era and have AC pullmor style motors which don't really fit our operating conditions unless they can be supervised.

Aside from that, illuminated accessories, freight cars, etc. are always nice to use and add a lot of action for people to see.  People always love finding little details as well, so any fun figures, cars, or other such items are always nice to hide around the layout for visitors to look for.

Moonman posted:

I like how you have really gotten a hold on this.

I am not sure why the Legacy remote wouldn't work from the lighting booth. It's on the same frequency band as WiFi to communicate with the base. It does make easier to have multiple remotes when you can use an iDevice.

Look at some of MartyE's posts. He uses a standalone router to connect the wifi module to create a secure network. (Like his demonstration table for the York legacy meetings).This prevents someone with the app on their device from accessing the layout control.

I am looking forward to seeing this season's rendition.


The Legacy remote has a lot going against it in the theater.  The booth is all the way in the back of the auditorium (Over 40 feet away), while the command base is located under the layout in the orchestra pit.  I think the seats block a good deal of the signal, which is further impacted when we have an auditorium full of people between the booth and the layout.  I've had a problem getting a signal from the opposite end of the layout from where the controls are (20 ft away) before.

The other aspect is that the trains are designed to turn on and run by turning on the main power switch at the lighting booth.  The village is on its own circuit while the trains are on another.  We almost have to set up a time delay circuit to the transformers so the command base turns on first, otherwise the trains would just take off.  Although as I'm typing this, I just had the thought that I can put the command base power source on the village circuit and just turn that one on first... 

I believe what you described is pretty much what Mark wants to do as far as a router is concerned.  Obviously someone would really have to want to run the trains if they'd be willing to pay for the fairly expensive app just to do so, but I'm sure someone out there has access to it.  I'll have to look at Marty's posts though as perhaps there are some things we could use from them.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Hi Jake: Cool Christmas Layout

When I was a kid and in High School. The Redford was a big time hang out.  There used to be a candy shop next door and also on Grand River.  Before we had cars, we used to take the Schoolcraft Bus to Grand River and ask for a transfer.  At the transfer point. There was a train shop called. "The Train Clinic".  The building is still there, it is now the fellowship hall for a church.  

If you ever have old copies of Model Railroader, you can see advertisements for "The Train Clinic" Detroit.

Gary: Model Train Trivia from Detroit

clem k posted:

Gary I remember that train shop, first train only store I went to. Dad had to take my train there for repair. I don't know what was wrong because he fixed most everything.

Hi Clem: Yes, a Train Shop.  When I was a kid, myself and my two brothers shared American Flyer Trains and they went to the Train Clinic for repairs.  It is my understanding there is a hobby shop in Troy, Michigan that has family ties to the Train Clinic.

Below are some Google Map photos.

Train Clinic Google MapRedford Google Map



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Thanks guys, I have heard about the candy store next to the theater many times, though it was before my time.  It's interesting hearing about some of the history of the area.

You mentioned a train shop that's now in Troy, which I assume is Empire Trains and Hobby.  They used to be Merri-Seven trains located at Merriman and 7 mile in Livonia until several years ago.  

A nice start to the season... we are one of the runners up for the MTH Blue Comet award as shown in the 2018 V1 catalog. I applied for this several months ago, and was pleasantly surprised to have gotten recognition in the catalog (I knew about it about a month ago). Though we didn't win, we got a nice writeup on the first page of the catalog which is awesome for our display and the theater.  

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 9.51.31 AM

That being said, I'm getting ready to head over to the theater to start some of the construction for this year's layout. And so it begins....


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 I was born in Redford a lonnnng time ago and am into trains once again. I got my first Lionel train while living in Redford for Christmas in 1941 and it still runs well.  I lived there from 1936 until 1943. Where is the Redford Theatre located? I would like to drive in and see your display. I have a lot of pre-war Lionel and a ton of pre-war Marx and would like to donate some if I knew what your needs might be. You can email me at gm.gilligan@comcast.net. I'm in Ann Arbor. 


Thanks guys, we were excited to get the news 

George, the Redford Theatre is located near the corner of Lahser and Grand River in Northwest Detroit (considered the "Old Redford" neighborhood, was once Redford but was annexed into Detroit).  I will definitely shoot you an email.  We enjoy having a variety of stuff to run.

We decided to spend most of today reworking our rooftop Christmas lights while the weather is still nice.  Here are a few photos I took while working up there.  If you look carefully in the first photo behind the taller brick portion of the wall behind the Marquee, you can see an L-shaped beam that passes through the roof.  That was a portion of the support for the vertical sign which went with the original marquee.  Unfortunately it fell victim to the scrap drives of World War Two, and this marquee was installed a few years later.  The torch marks from where other components were cut off of the beam are very visible up close.



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Some slow progress on the display. School and work have been taking up a lot of my time recently, so things aren't going as quickly as I'd like, but we're getting there. This week we laid down our masonite panels we bought last year over the black stage platforms. They're painted white, so the snow doesn't look dark as it does when put directly on the black tabletops. They also help smooth out the transitions between the 4x8 tables (unfortunately since the platforms were built over many years, the tops aren't all the same material).


Last night we worked for awhile and constructed a new 4'x6' platform to fit in the area in front of the piano in the orchestra pit. The piano is connected to the organ console, and can't be moved from it's place, so we decided to build around it. In the past, we've only filled the space between the organ console and the edge of the piano. We normally set up a folding table in front of the piano to store unused rolling stock and locomotives. I haven't quite decided what to do with the platform yet, but we've discussed a possible railroad yard, or a smaller town display. Seeing as we gained nearly 20 new buildings for this year since we took down last year's display, we needed a little more space. I don't intend to use all of my buildings since we had a lot of donations, but we will use many of them.

Next work session, a wedge shaped piece will be made to fill in the gap between the orchestra pit railing and the new platform. Working around the curved edge of the pit makes things a little more challenging when trying to use all the available space.



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Some more progress on our extension. We spent most of yesterday hauling everything out of our storage room at the theater, and then staring at the layout trying to figure out where we want to add all of our new additions. My initial plan for the extension on the right was to construct a large park with a new ice skating rink, the carousel and the N gauge train (simulating a ride on train in O scale) from last year. Upon staring at it and trying to find a location for the On30 set I also purchased over the off season, we decided to make the extension a more rustic area with a narrow gauge train, maybe my horse barn and a few other more rural feeling buildings.


I still plan on doing the park elsewhere, and mocked up my new ice skating rink tonight. My grandpa put together a wooden frame for me (mainly because I haven't had any time to work on such a thing) which will hold the 12"x24" piece of white translucent acrylic I bought on Amazon. Beneath that will be some LED strip lights which have the ability to change color with a remote. It's a little intense, but we'll work on fixing that later when I do the final assembly. The frame was painted grey tonight to simulate concrete, and I'll probably embed it in the snow somewhere so it looks like a nice park ice skating rink. I've never had a good place to display the many ice skating figures I've acquired over the years, so this fits the bill.



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Always like this thread every year!  Thanks for sharing.

Marty Eibeck

Legacy Users Group*** Meeting at York in the Orange Hall Meeting Room***Friday April 20th at 7:45AM


Below the Signature Line...

"Well that didn't go as planned"


Jake I'd be happy to send a donation towards your purchase of another Williams engine, just email me where to.

Keep up the great work. There are some old theaters like this around here that are a joy to see concerts and films in. Sadly there are some that nearly "abandoned" that could be reinvigorated and used to enhance their downtown areas.

Thanks guys, sorry for the late response but I haven't had a chance to check this thread in awhile.  

Bobby, it is sad how many theaters are abandoned, especially in Detroit.  Many have been lost to the ages only to become surface parking lots for modern venues.  Luckily we have a few gems that have been saved and restored in the city, the Redford being one, and several others (mainly downtown) such as the Fox theater. 


We did some work last evening at the theater.  I was hoping to have trains running, but we aren't quite there yet.  I worked on repairing broken feeder wires on the bottom of the track sections, and we then laid out the main loops of track.  I went through and made repairs to connections on our wiring harness as required as well.

The main project last night was dismantling our old control panel, and placing everything into a small cabinet I bought from the local Meijer store.  Our new extension to the layout is on the end of the layout that our old panel used to tuck underneath, and the extension is narrower, so the old panel wouldn't fit under it.  This cabinet fits the bill, and everything should be easier to access for operations when we choose to run trains manually.

Last night we also toyed with our new Legacy LCS Wifi Module.  Mark set up a private network for a few theater related things that isn't readily accessible by others, especially patrons.  This should hopefully keep train operations limited to our electronic devices and nobody else's.  I still need to update my legacy base to properly work with the Wifi module once the utility modules I ordered arrive, but we did get them to connect.

The ZW controls the two mainlines, as well as two of the smaller loops of track.  The CW-80 on top is for the trolley loop, and the CW-80 on the bottom is for accessory lighting.  I'm still working on where to place the power supply for the new On30 loop that will be surrounding our park scene on the new extension.



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We dug in and got things done this week.  As of right now, we're about 55 hours into our work on the display.  I worked right up until we opened the doors at 1:00 pm yesterday for our animated film festival.  We made the layout presentable enough to show and operated the trains for both the matinee and evening shows.  I worked on populating the town in between shows, and now just have to install and wire all the street lights and other lighted accessories, as well as our trees.  Still a ways to go, but it's pretty complete as of right now.




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With another 6 hours of work today (putting our total at over 64 hours each) Jake and I have reached our "complete" state for the 2017/18 layout!  Odds are we will wire a few more billboards but it is definitely ready for the first holiday movie "Home Alone" and "Christmas Story" this Friday and Saturday.


Video is in High Definition, View On Youtube in HD.



Glancy Modular Trains



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Pine Creek Railroad posted:


   Congrats on another nice Redford Theater Christmas layout, beautiful Job and yes you do need to put the Tin Plate on display for the Christmas season!  That was a great recommendation!


Thank you!  I haven't had much time to run my own stuff on the layout, but I have been showing off my tinplate set on our club layout which is set up for the holiday event at the museum where I work.  People enjoy seeing it for sure, and it looks nice this time of year as well.

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