LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — (News Release) To countless Americans of not so long ago, the railroad represented the spirit of America itself; its boldness and swift power meant change, modernity and a boundless, bright future. Toy trains reflected this mystique. For lucky boys (or girls—although they were largely ignored by the trains’ makers and marketers), Christmas mornings might reveal a dream come true: a train circling the base of the Christmas tree, bound for parts unknown.
This December, the Capitol’s first-floor displays celebrate the tradition of trains around the Christmas tree and highlight a hidden Arkansas gem: the Ruland Junction Toy Train Museum of Heber Springs. “Dream lines: Toy Trains at Christmas” invites visitors to remember—or imagine—a time when fathers and sons were encouraged to engineer transportation empires together in the basement or on living-room floors.
The exhibit features a variety of vintage and recent toy trains. Perhaps the most famous American maker was—and remains—Lionel, but other makers, such as Marx and Gilbert’s American Flyer, also claimed their share of the market. In recent years other makers have reissued classic toy train designs and created new ones, replicating both vintage and contemporary railroad equipment. Interspersed with these trains are images from the Ruland Junction museum, which preserves and presents the accumulation of nearly nine decades’ collecting, tinkering and making by one family, father and sons in love with the romance of toy railroading. A brief documentary produced by the Arkansas Educational Television Network, offers glimpses of the museum’s trains in their wonderful, clattery motion.
“Dream Lines: Toy Trains at Christmas” will remain on display in the Arkansas Capitol’s first floor galleries through December. The Capitol building is open until 9:00 pm throughout the month of December for those wishing to see the exhibit and other Christmas decorations.