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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011

That's EnterTRAINment

Santa joins the fun at Dayton-area center

The model train pulls into a village visited by Santa. The model train pulls into a village visited by Santa.

WEST CHESTER, Ohio — It’s a pretty amazing place at any time of the year, but during the holiday season — when much of its display area is blanketed in white and there are a couple of VIPs from the North Pole on hand — EnterTRAINment Junction becomes a bona fide wonderland for both children and adults.

The 4-year-old, train-themed family entertainment center just south of Dayton boasts the world’s largest indoor model train display (25,000 square feet), with more than two miles of track winding through meticulously detailed towns, factories, mountains, valleys, and forests, its trains rolling across intricate trestles and through long tunnels.

At any given time, there may be as many as 90 trains with more than 1,200 cars chugging through the display, lights flashing and horns blowing.  Some are at eye level, others cruisingaround as high as 11 feet overhead. And these aren’t your tiny HO-scale rail cars, which could fit easily into a pocket. They’re the big boys — heavy G-scale trains, each car about the size of a loaf of bread.

EnterTRAINment, which has the world’s largest indoor model train display. EnterTRAINment, which has the world’s largest indoor model train display.

In a nice touch, parents are given lightweight step stools to carry through the displays so their little ones can use them when necessary to climb up and get a closer look at something or push a hard-to-reach button, triggering lights or sound effects. The trains alone are enough to occupy an hour or two, but few visitors will want to depart without checking out the “Journey to the North Pole.”

The pathway leads through snowy landscapes to Santa's Village, along the way passing by a reindeer barn and an elves' workshop before arriving in Mrs. Claus' kitchen. There, the friendly old lady greets each child with a freshly baked cookie.

Then it's on to Santa's study, where the big guy himself is waiting to pose for pictures and ask what each little visitor might want for Christmas. (If there's any indecision on a child's part, Santa's go-to suggestion is -- what else? -- a train set.)

The center also includes a play area where kids can burn off excess energy by climbing, jumping, bouncing, sliding, and shoveling make-believe coal inside an oversized Thomas the Train.

Children can also see Santa while visiting the center. Children can also see Santa while visiting the center.

For slightly older train enthusiasts, there's the American Railroading Museum, which uses movies, artifacts, interactive kiosks, and more to explore the role of trains in the growth of the United States.

Along with all the train exhibits, the center houses a new "A-Maze-N Funhouse," which is filled with mazes, spinning tunnels, and all sorts of disorienting illusions.

EnterTRAINment Junction is just off I-75 at Exit 22 between Dayton and Cincinnati, about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Toledo. Information: 877-898-4656 or www.entertrainmentjunction.com.

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