You know the movies – the ones where children scramble to board a train to the North Pole to see Santa Claus. Or the one where the single adult journeys across the country for Christmas and ends up finding true love. For some reason, trains and Christmas just go together. But why?
In the early 1900s, Lionel started producing the first electric toy train sets. At that time, children were more familiar with trains which had been around for almost 100 years versus the automobile which was just starting to appear in towns in the United States. Children across the country would open their new toy trainset and eagerly set it up under the tree on Christmas morning.
During this time, many people travelled by rail to see family during the holiday season as it was much faster, and more comfortable, than travel by horse and carriage. Even if you were not travelling for Christmas, it was almost guaranteed that your holiday gifts were arriving by train to your local town. Consequently, the toy trains around the tree created a sense of nostalgia and began to become not just part of the Christmas gift giving, but the Christmas decorations. Over the years, the train layouts at some houses have become permanent as the hobby model railroading has grown in popularity. There are magazines, museums, and conventions dedicated to the model railroad all over the world.
Today most of our gifts arrive via UPS or Amazon truck and we travel to visit family by plane or car. However, our Christmas trainsets continue to remind us of simpler times and bring a sense of magic and reminiscence to the holidays.