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I thought I might share a couple of photos of another Christmas display I helped out with this year in addition to my Redford Theatre layout.

This one is located at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI and is set up for their Holiday Nights program. We set the time machine to 1921 and went from there. Small electrical appliance/repair shops were pretty common in those days and many of them stocked electric trains, Christmas lights, etc. around the holidays. We referenced an original 1921 photo taken of the front window display of a shop located in Washington D.C. I've been collecting period correct Lionel and Ives O gauge items since June with this display in mind (things got a bit out of hand on that front once the addiction set in... 😁). We also sourced reasonably close representations of various small electrical devices that such a store would have stocked in those days. I modified one of the Lionel locomotives with a modern chassis so that it would actually be able to take the thrashing of being operable for hours on end during the program without wearing out a 100 year old motor.

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty cool display and has been well received by the visitors thus far.

The historical reference photo sourced from Shorpy:



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@SantaFe158 posted:

I thought I might share a couple of photos of another Christmas display I helped out with this year in addition to my Redford Theatre layout.
This one is located at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI and is set up for their Holiday Nights program. We set the time machine to 1921 ...snip...


That style of waffle iron was made at least into the 1950s although at some point in time square/rectangular ones appeared. Anyway, a very nice display of an era that I really like.

Wow that whole display is wonderfuland the concept of it is fantastic ! You guys did an excellent job. As mentioned the original picture is from Shorpy. I remember seeing it there several years ago. Looks like you have more trains in "your store"  then in the original Thank You for sharing this with us


I attended Holiday Nights this past Friday and was looking forward to seeing the vintage trains.  Thanks, Jake for the wonderful display, it is very appropriate seeing it in the historic setting of Greenfield Village.  There was a lot of attention being paid by the public and I had to wait my turn to see the display.

Your Redford Theatre train layout is a real spectacle to see too!

Here is a short video I made of the Greenfield Village display.

Thanks guys!

Dave, some of the appliances are pushing it a bit when it comes to their actual age, but they matched pretty closely with photos we had as far as the style goes.  Some things looked the same or pretty similar for a few decades.

Frank, we do indeed have a few more trains in our display.  Our original intent was to focus mainly on the trains since most people like seeing things like that.  The appliance shop style was an added bonus once we saw that photo and decided to go that route.  That said, I began collecting a couple of sets for the window over the summer when we first began discussing the project and ended up obtaining an example of every O gauge locomotive Lionel had to offer in 1921 (a couple didn't make the display this year because they need cosmetic restoration work) plus an Ives set for some character.  Ultimately I found room for nearly everything I had and it really filled out the display with a nice cross section of Lionel's offerings including their cheapest cataloged set as well as the most expensive they had to offer in O gauge.  I have a few more freight and passenger cars to obtain to fill out the collection, but I've got the bulk of it.

David, thanks for the kind words.  I'm glad you enjoyed the display.  I was there for awhile at the beginning of the event Friday to see it off on its first night.  Although I was excited enough when the display came to life after we assembled it early in the week after months of planning, it was even more special getting to see the visitors enjoying it.  They were the final piece to the puzzle since I know such displays drew the same attention 100 years ago also.  Thanks for the great video too!

Thanks guys!

As to the subject of the lamps, I'm not sure.  Although the overall size is pretty small, they do appear to have standard lamp sockets and would have likely used a standard light bulb.  I would imagine they were as bright as any other lamp.  I have a few smaller table lamps in my home and they certainly light up the room just fine.

I really love this, and it is inspiring me to maybe do something similar. I am a retired set designer and set dresser for theatre and television, and have done many interiors that had to be "dressed" authentically for the period. Gathering and arranging all the individual props or pieces is a lot of work as well as a lot of fun, so I appreciate the attention to detail and the overall artistic feel to your display. Bravo!

Thanks guys!

Will, we definitely had fun seeing how much detail we could work into the display from the original photo.  Although it was used as reference and quite a few details were closely replicated, we went with our own variation on some of the other standout details.  We've been collecting items since mid-summer for this display and there are still some items we may acquire for next year now that we know it's become rather popular with our visitors.

@ed davis posted:

WOW you nailed it! Fantastic job right down to the dry cell batteries.

The batteries I thought were an important detail to have since the transformers in those days were a separate sale item that cost almost as much as some of the lower end sets did (I believe the cheapest set was about $6.25, while a transformer was another $5 or so).  Once I started filling out the train portion of the collection, I thought it was interesting to have a decent cross section of the entire O gauge lineup at all of the price points.  The main pieces I'm currently missing are some of the mid-level freight cars which I intend to pick up examples of in the future.

There are a few resources out there for building replica dry cell batteries that can be filled with standard D-cell batteries to give the original look while being more serviceable for radio collectors and the like.  These were purchased from a seller on eBay and are essentially PVC pipe with a battery holder core that slides in from the top.  Not really museum quality (the seller even admits that) but they look close enough to be a filler detail in our situation.  I did purchase additional replica decals from another source to cover over the ones they came with as they were scanned directly from an original, aged label.  They looked good, but were a bit too aged looking to represent the "new product" appearance we were going for.  

Last edited by SantaFe158

Thanks guys!

I'm currently working on figuring out an alternative chassis to mount the locomotive on.  The Lionel starter set 4-4-2 chassis that I modified doesn't seem to be up to the job in this operating environment (although it was a pretty simple modification).  If anybody has any suggestions for a quality chassis that would fit in a Lionel 152 style shell, I'm all ears.  I currently have a couple of MTH handcars on order to steal the chassis from.  I have mounting blocks machined for a bolt on fit, however the motors are the one aspect of those that I'm not sure will be up to the task.

I don't know what kind of budget you are trying to stay in, but an original mechanism is probably much more robust  with a little maintenance and would likely outlast a modern mechanism... seems like something could be done for around $50-75.  Of course, time is not on your side.

The main problem with that is that maintenance parts for the original mechanisms that go in these earlier locomotives are quite difficult to come by.  They're not as readily available as the parts for the stuff produced from 1924 and beyond.

As a history buff of several different flavors, ! find that a fantastic creation. Now, which year in the 1950's? was the peak of Marx, Lionel, and Flyer department store displays of trains?  I lived it and walked through them,  but did not have the sense or capability to capture them on film.  Many more people, such as l, would remember those displays and might enjoy their recreations.  They mght make an interesting "then and now" contrasting display.

@Will posted:

Well done video! And I love the version of Auld Lang Syne. Do you have a link or can you tell me who recorded it? You might consider adding credits with this as part of them at the end.

I didn't realize the village was free standing buildings outside. Very cool.

Thank you!  The song is sung by the "Peerless Quartet".  I thought I had added that in the description on the actual YouTube page but just noticed that I neglected to.

The Village is an assembly of actual historic buildings from around the country (and in some cases internationally) or a few painstaking recreations using as much material as could be salvaged from the originals due to their bad condition.    

Well, this display went over quite well last year so we brought it back for another season.  While I enjoy my large Christmas Village type layout that I put together at the Redford Theatre in Detroit every year, this might just have it beat as my favorite one to do.  I just find it very cool to be able to take a photograph taken over 100 years ago and bring it to life to bring enjoyment to thousands of people in the modern world.  Things were simpler then, but the trains still draw attention as they did when Lionel produced them a century ago.

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