Annual Train Display Chugs Back Into Union Terminal

Nov 6, 2015

An annual holiday tradition is now open at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Duke Energy Trains are back for their 70th year. The display began in 1946 as a public relations effort by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad.

Trainmaster Jack Thompson has been running the trains since the start.

Why is Jack Thompson called the Trainmaster? "Well, I've only been with it 70 years!"
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

"Everything's done manually," says Thompson. "No computers or nothing like that. Everything operates with separate switches. Everything works manually and it takes quite a bit of training."

Thompson would know. He's been training display engineers for decades. "It was part of my transportation job at CG&E. Then I was on it so many years that they had me come over here (to the Museum Center) when it moved here to help train people to run it. It's pretty complicated."

He says he keeps coming back because "it's just part of my life." And he wants people to know the history of the display. "It was scratch built by the B&O Railroad PR people in the early 1930s. A lot of people think these are just toy trains. These were scratch built by two people! All scratch built, engines, cars... track, everything was scratch built. Then they used it for PR around the B&O system."

According to the Museum Center, the display is one of the largest portable models in the world. It has more than 300 miniature rail cars and 60 engines.

This Carlisle & Finch Co. train is new to the display this year. It dates to 1904.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

New this year is a fully restored Carlisle & Finch electric train from 1904. Carlisle & Finch is credited with being the first company to make electric model trains. The company abandoned production at the start of World War I to make marine searchlights for the war effort. After the war, Carlisle & Finch chose not to return to the model train business and focused instead on the searchlight market.


The holiday trains are back @cincymuseum. Read the story at & tell us your favorite train memory. #v

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Nov 6, 2015 at 11:45am PST