CT River Museum Trains – #ThursdayDoors

My secret is out. It wasn’t just a love of marine artifacts that took me to the Connecticut River Museum last week. I would have made it there eventually, but what made it worth the trip on a cold rainy day in January was the holiday model train display. I’m a sucker for model trains, and the prospect of seeing my favorite locomotive of all time – the New Haven Railroad with the block stamp logo – made the trip even more enticing. Going to the museum on a Friday morning meant that I’d have plenty of time to study the layout. I was only competing for views with one little boy, (but he had brought his own stepstool – the makings of a pro – to get a better view). He was there with his grandmother and we got along well.

The layout features buildings, businesses and waterways from historic Essex, CT, including a couple steamships. The gallery focus is on the areas of the display that include doors, or things I really like that must have a door somewhere. Included in today’s gallery are images for GP and Mary, and a question for David.


This is the first Thursday Doors post for 2020, and it’s a good time to tip our engineer’s cap to Norm Framptom, the lead conductor on our year long journey of door appreciation. Each week, Norm gathers doors from around the world. They are linked through his website at the northern terminus of the line in Montreal. If you have doors to share, or just want to see wonderful doors from everywhere, punch your ticket for Norm’s station.

In addition, while I try to never combine prompts, these scrumptious doors are also part of Linda G. Hill’s #JusJoJan via the prompt offered by Maggie at From the Cave Walls.

All aboard!

85 thoughts on “CT River Museum Trains – #ThursdayDoors

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  1. Dan You have a love of trains and model trains; you have all the time you need; you have a huge basement; you have a friend in the UK who knows a lot about model trains and could help. Why not just get stuck in instead of dreaming at a museum?
    The double ended loco was used to avoid the need for a turntable (or a wye track – look it up!) at the end of small branch lines. The loco coud just move to the other end of the train and the driver changed ends.
    David

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    1. I’m afraid the appropriations committee won’t be considering the addition of another expensive hobby for me in retirement. I’ll have to enjoy the model trains vicariously through you and the occasional show.

      What I really like about these shows is how they’ve adapted the layout to represent the local area. The model train museum in Minneapolis was the best, with the recreation of the curved stone arch bridge over the Mississippi River. This one was pretty good.

      Thanks for the answer. I guessed that it had something to do with not turning around, but it seems expensive to build it that way. I often see locomotives running backwards, I guess it doesn’t work for passenger trains on congested arteries. An electrified NHRR train would be running on the Northeast Corridor – our busiest rail in the country.

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    1. I will be attending the Wood Working show this weekend (it moves around a bit). The Big-E fairgrounds is a pain to get to right now, as the bridge is out between us and them. We have to go a long way around. I might go up to the train show, but I’ll have to see what the day looks like.

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  2. Dan, what a feast for the eyes. I was bowled over by your images of that train layout. Absolutely magnificent. Took me back to the years of my Hornby trains and their set up. Love it.

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  3. Dan, this is an excellent and unique post for Thursday doors, plus you found the A&P! WooHoo! Or should I say ChooChoo? Even though I’m not a model train buff, I am amazed by the layouts that are set up in museums and elsewhere, with all of the fine details of doors and windows and train logos. It’s all quite interesting!

    If you ever pay a visit to Green Bay, the National Railroad Museum is there and they decorate for the holidays. Something for your what-to-do-in-retirement list.

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    1. The only thing better than model trains is real trains, Mary, I might have to add that to the list. When I saw the A&P, I immediately thought of you. I figured there’s a door in there somewhere. This layout tracks well with the history of the area. That’s what I like most about these displays.

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  4. This is Fantastic, Dan! I visited Roadside America in PA when I was a kid, so I could just imagine being here at this display! Train, boats and history – how we do think alike, my friend!!

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    1. I’ll be explaining the connection between the ships, the museum and the display on Monday, but suffice it to say, one thing led to another, and, as I was researching one thing, I saw the ad for the train display. The prospect of visiting a maritime history museum on the banks of perhaps the most historic port in our state – WITH A RUNNING MODEL TRAIN DISPLAY was simply too hard to pas up.

      What I like most about these displays, and I’m sure what fascinated you at Roadside America, it the historic details that are present. It takes over 30 hours to set this display up each year, and the owner has thousands of hours invested behind the scenes

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      1. You sure got me smiling with “visiting a maritime history museum on the banks of perhaps the most historic port in our state – WITH A RUNNING MODEL TRAIN DISPLAY was simply too hard to pas up.”

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    1. This kid was trying to complete the scavenger hunt. The funny thing is that one of the items was “Tug Boat Whistle” – he was searching the display for it, but it was the real one in the corner of the room that I featured yesterday. I mentioned it to his grandfather, but they decided to let him find it on his own.

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  5. The kid brought his own stepstool..!!! Wow, what detail here, Dan. We have a couple model train museums that we like to visit locally, but I don’t think they have near the detail that you have. These are wonderful.

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  6. Hi Dan – I always loved my cousins’ model railway … it was larger than ours … and we always used to go to Hamleys and see the Triang toys/train sets … my grandmother’s family owned them … interesting history. I’ve a family history (personal book – by them) about the family and its development into toy selling etc … I was slightly too old – so ours were my brothers … but I rather hanker after a set of my own – in dream land now. Great that you’ve so many fascinating things to get out and see … now you’ve more time – or less of it, as I find. Cheers Hilary

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    1. I was the youngest grandson, so by the time I came along, everyone already had a train set. I like looking at them, but I’m not sure I really want to start setting up my own – I tend to go overboard. I do like having the freedom to go visit them.

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  7. Wow, what and wonderful layout this is. I have never seen one with a harbor before and it is wonderful. I love all the old Coke signage on the buildings. I have one that is going to be restored in the town where I work if all goes well this summer. I wish Christopher could see this in person he would flip!

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    1. The best one I’ve ever seen (and one I want to see again) is the one at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. It’s huge and amazing. This one was fun, because of the history included.

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  8. What a fun post, Dan. My dad loved trains and I have an appreciation for working displays like this. I have also never seen a model that included a harbor, but thinking that was perhaps not too uncommon in port cities.

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Maggie. I tagged your JusJoJan prompt in at the very end. I’ve seen layouts with harbors before, but I like the historic elements in this one. It takes a lot of work to get this right.

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  9. Wow is such a short word to describe all this work, history, beauty, and attention to detail. 30 hours to set up ! Somehow it makes me think there is just as much time tied up in packing, staging, moving, and storing. How many people are involved in the move and setup ? The choreography to set it up from back to front or from middle out has to be rather complex. Are you sure the 30 hours isn’t being rounded down ? Way down ? Great pictures Dan. Wow.

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  10. All those details in miniature! It looks fantastic. Since our move and going through some of my Christmas stuff I didn’t come across my real train set, just my wooden railway Thomas set which I did put under the tree, but I missed my real train. I hope it turns up. I like the display cases for the engines. The double engine I thought of Push me/Pull You!

    I see that David answered the question. I thought that might be the answer.

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  11. I like the first picture with the rhino. My favorites are the lumber yard and Christmas. I love all the old locomotives. That is really a huge display; must have taken a long time to set up. I do believe you are enjoying your retirement.

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  12. Wow! I think what I love most about these displays are the street and landscape scenes. The trains are fabulous (especially those Art Deco ones… be still my heart) but I love seeing a “day-in-the-life” of the town. I wonder, though, in the first picture in your slideshow there appears to be a rhinoceros wandering around… is that a common sight in Essex :) ?

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    1. Ha ha – no, rhinos were not common in Essex in the 1800s. The museum was running a scavenger hunt for children which included a wide variety of items, including things like the rhino. Those Dreamliner trains were pretty special. Imagine rolling cross country behind one of those 🙂 I do enjoy the daily life detail, and I think this layout is pretty accurate.

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  13. This display is fantabulous Dan. I’m blown away by the focus on the details. You took great pictures. But the one captioned “This is a long narrow…….” really shows off the wonder of the display.

    What a great way to teach kids local history by sending them on a scavenger hunt at the museum. And what sharp grandparents to let the little guy find things on his own, and to bring a stepstool so he could actually see the display. He won’t soon forget that day at the museum, nor will he forget the nice man named “Dan” who explained so many things to him!

    Two of my great uncles (brothers) worked for, I believe, the New Haven Railroad. One was a conductor, and the other painted all the logos, etc. on the outside of the cars.

    I really enjoyed the tour Dan. Have to go back and go through photos again. Every time I look, I see more that I didn’t notice before!!
    🐾Ginger 🐾

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    1. I LOVE that logo, Ginger. What a wonderful connection to make through you to a man who painted them. The NHRR had such beautiful trains. I’ve liked them since the first time I saw one.

      The grandmother did most of the explaining, along with the man who owns the layout. We were early enough to watch him getting it going.

      The street scenes are so interesting to study. I was very happy to be there in the absence of weekend crowds.

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    1. During our early history, Essex was home to several ship yards. The harbor would have been crowded (maybe not this crowded). I was amazed to learn how much traffic was on the CT River during that time.

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  14. Well that did not disappoint! What a great train display! Reminds me of what it USTA be like at the children’s museum. Sigh. I like Mary’s shot best, but not for the A&P — Sunoco! Bill at Sunoco was my mechanic and now Bill’s Sunoco is gone, replaced by Tae Kwon Do and they don’t fix cars or pump the gas or anythin (I presume)

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    1. I’m glad you found something special. I do like the lumber yard, and the Coca-Cola sign. Our mechanic, in the 60s owned an Esso station. There is an Esso sign in the layout, but I don’t know if I included it.

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  15. I’m gobsmacked. The amount and level of detail is astounding!
    They got my hopes up here when I saw a sign for a model train depot. Unfortunately, based on what my friend said, it’s limited to a mini train for kids to ride in.
    Great post, Dan. Hugs.

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  16. WOW, this is stunning! I grew up in a farming community where there were no trains. Once, when I was a kid, my dad took me with him to visit one of his friends. This farmer had converted an entire building on his ranch into a model train village. I had never seen anything like it and was entranced. Thank you for sharing this incredible display and for taking me back in time. ♥

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    1. Thanks Gwen. I’m glad you enjoyed this. My mother’s best friend lived in this big old house with her brother. He had converted one entire room into a train layout. I was amazed. I can image how you must have felt seeing such a large display. I’ve seen large displays as an adult, but that must have been incredible to see as a child.

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  17. Suds Bucket — Gotta love it! Do they only have that tremendous display put together for Christmas, or only open it to view at Christmas, or is it always there, always open, but with snow added for Christmas? It’s fabulous! Makes you want to be small enough to walk around and see everything up close. Although, come to think of it, that would kind of ruin the “miniature” aspect….

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  18. Can’t see model train sets without thinking about Christmases when I was a kid. We had a pretty big set that we put up every year, with the tree right in the center. Such a nice memory, as you can imagine. Some great pics here, Dan!

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