The holidays are chugging into town, and southeast Michigan is full of train-themed fun. Climb aboard a real one or check out some cool displays. See what’s in store!
During its Holidays in Henry Ford Museum event, this family lure turns its halls into a wonderland with Christmas trees covered in hundreds of ornaments – and a giant 16-by-36-foot Lionel display. It boasts 435 feet of track lined with tiny versions of historic buildings and figures, plus seasonal engines, handcars and lights. Originally owned by Richard Kughn, former CEO of Lionel Trains, this display has called Dearborn home since 1983.
“(It’s) is a perennial favorite,” museum manager Kate Morland says, and “a reminder of the connection between toys and the holiday season.”
- Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn
- Phone: 313-982-6001
- Times: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 27-Jan. 3 (closed Dec. 25)
- Cost: $20/adults, $15/ages 5-12
An elaborate holiday display rolls into this nonprofit spot, teeming with Lionel and American Flyer trains with names like The Polar Express and Frosty the Snowman. Its main table of choo-choos also gets some added miniature holiday pizzazz. And kids can even crawl into a tunnel to hear little trains rumble overhead – or run some of the action. “There are buttons along the layout and, by pushing these buttons, you can make E.T. pop out of the ground, send fire engines to fires (and) control a car wash,” Pat Simeck, co-founder of the depot, says. “The Christmas display has kids going down the hill on sleds.”
- Address: 28700 Arsenal Road, Flat Rock
- Phone: 734-782-2786
- Times: 1-4 p.m. Dec. 5, 13, 19, 23, 26, 30 and Jan. 2
- Cost: $6/adults, $5/students; free/under 5
All Aboard! That’s the name of this massive display that 20 model train enthusiasts from the Stoney Creek Model Railroad put together, each bringing their own HO-scale gear to fit this 1,000-sqaure-foot restored calf barn. From deserts to villages, visitors will see multiple trains running together across different scenery, which changes every four feet, over bridges and through tunnels. There’s even a train that has a monitor on its engine so pint-sized engineers can watch from the train’s point of view. “This display is great because it’s 20 different people being creative in their own way,” says museum director Patrick McKay.
- Address: Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, 1005 Van Hoosen Road
- Phone: 248-656-4663
- Times: 1-4 p.m. Dec. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 26-27 and Jan. 2
- Cost: $5/adults, $3/students ($8/family Dec. 26-27 only)
Travel north to Flint for Christmas at Crossroads Holiday. Here, little train lovers can climb aboard an authentic Baldwin steam locomotive for a 40-minute journey along the shores of Mott Lake – and Crossroads Village, a historic town that’s transformed into an 1800s-era Christmas village. The train, which Danielle Fulcher, marketing specialist at Genesee County Parks and Recreation, believes was built sometime around the 1920s and came to the county in 1981, is heated, decorated with Christmas lights and plays carols during the journey.
“I really like the train because it is decorated for Christmas,” Fulcher says. “When the train rounds the turn, you can see it all lit up out the window, and it just feels like Christmas.”
- Address: 6140 Bray Road, Flint
- Phone: 810-736-7100, ext. 6
- Times: Departs 5, 5:50, 6:40 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27-29, Dec. 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, 22-23, 26-27, 29 and 30 (reservations a must!)
- Cost: $13/adults, $10/ages 2-12, free/under 2 (for train and village)