Model Railways and Miniature Trains
Christmas Village Displays
Adding any kind of movement to your Christmas village will inject a huge amount of interest and excitement for children, and the obvious choice for many is a miniature railway.
Model trains really do come in all shapes and sizes, and so it is well worth considering all of the options available and the various implications before rushing in and purchasing your train and track. For example, would you prefer a battery powered train with a strong Christmas theme, or perhaps a more realistic miniature Hornby railway set with a variable speed control box and digital points?
Scale is certainly an important consideration, and whilst the whole idea of trying to get everything in your Christmas village to be to the same kind of scale is a fairly personal thing, any layout will look a little strange if it has a giant train winding its way around your houses. Likewise, at the other end of the scale, a tiny train that is smaller than the actual people standing on the platform, waiting for it to arrive, is far from ideal.
Most people opt for a battery train specifically made for a Christmas village, such as the Lemax miniature railway set named 'Starlight Express', which features a colourful American-style steam locomotive, complete with large funnel / chimney and several bright carriages with a noticeable Yuletide theme.
Choosing Your Christmas Train Set
Apart from being quite cheap when compared to model shop railways, the definite advantage with choosing a train set such as the Lemax one is that the track features sharp curves, meaning that the overall size is reduced and that it can easily fit on a simple table top.
Whilst the train and track of a model Hornby railway is actually usually slightly smaller, the corners are much more gradual and therefore the layout always needs to be at least one metre deep.
When laying out your Christmas village, it is a good idea to draw a little plan first, so that you have a basic idea of what you are trying to create and where things should be placed, particularly if a miniature railway is involved. Once you have covered your surface with the obligatory white snow cloth, lay your track next and consider hiding elements from view, so that the train is not visible all of the time. Make sure that when the train runs, its wheels will not get caught in any polyester or cotton wool that is acting as snow.
Obscuring parts of the track has the added advantage of surprise, particularly if a tunnel through a mountain is involved, although do bear in mind that easy access at all times is sensible, in case of potential derailing problems. Also be aware that adding a train can truly complicate things if you have limited space and potentially spoil the arrangement of the village.
If you really don't have space for a complete circuit of track, you can always just lay a short length and position the train as a static non-moving feature, in the same way that the figurines and cars don't move. A wooden Brio-style toy locomotive may well suit this purpose. Space shouldn't be an issue, though, if you have purchased the correct railway for the intended design of your Christmas village.
Model Railway Finishing Touches
Finishing touches for a winter train set can include traffic signals created from bamboo kebab skewers painted black.
You may like to add in plenty of hedges to line the train track with, as well as shrubs formed from green reindeer moss and lots of trees, big and small. Also, the simple addition of a station platform will add the next step of realism. On the platform you can position a bench and perhaps some of your figurines, poised as they eagerly await the arrival of the Christmas Polar Express.
Here is a printable train platform mocked up using Photoshop. Simply print this out on card, then cut and glue (or tape) together, before placing in the desired spot.
Printable model railway platform (click on image to enlarge):