FREMONT - The model trains at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center wind around the Christmas tree, crossing generational lines by sparking both children's imagination and adults' yuletide nostalgia.
Peter Reynolds of Monclova Township received a Lionel train set for his first birthday, Dec. 20, 1958.
This week, he will begin setting it up, along with his father's 1923 Lionel set, so his 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, can start a tradition of her own.
"It was a family tradition. Every year after Thanksgiving, my father would set up his train set, which his father had given to him as a present on his first birthday," said Mr. Reynolds, 48. "Now, I'm going to break [Sophia] into Lionel and make it a Christmas tradition for us. I'll have her pick out a new piece to add to our set each year."
The Reynolds family, along with hundreds of other northwest Ohio families, visited the Rutherford center during Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate tradition and usher in the holiday season. The 12th annual Hayes Train Special is on display through Jan. 7.
The exhibit includes a model of the 19th-century-style train that took President Hayes on his trip to the West Coast; he was the first president to make that trip.
In addition, it features the Lionel train that President Hayes' great-grandson, Webb Hayes III, received Dec. 25, 1924.
"Wow, this thing's fantastic. These trains move by themselves," said 5-year-old Bob Rosiak of Oak Harbor, whose parents took him to the
Hayes center yesterday. "It has all these buttons, and when you press them, things move around."
Interactive buttons allow visitors to move trains and miniature figurines around the four-tiered, cotton-ball-clad Victorian village, which is topped with a 2-foot-tall Christmas tree. One button animates three ice-skaters and a dog atop a winter pond.
Another button turns on a trolley, while another prompts cable cars to continue their ascent to the mountain's top.
Bob said he's played with trains like this before, although on a slightly smaller scale, at his grandfather's house in Fremont.
"My dad always wanted a train set, so I bought him one about 10 or 15 years ago for a Christmas present," said Bob's mother, Mary Ellen Rosiak.
Mrs. Rosiak said her father sets it up under the tree each year when her family comes to visit.
More than 75 paper snowflakes are mounted on the walls surrounding the train exhibit.
Thomas L. Clark of Ann Arbor, a retired physician known as "Dr. Snowflake," folded and cut the paper to create snowflakes depicting The Nativity, the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Admission to both exhibits is in the Hayes Museum ticket price of $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $2 for children age 12 and under.
Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.