spirit of the season
December 1, 2016
December is now upon us and for most Americans that means the countdown to Christmas, and all its annual traditions, has begun.
Aside from the very important and obvious religious significance of Christmas the day is largely defined, like most holidays, by the traditions of those who celebrate it. For some that means turkey and mashed potatoes, or perhaps opening presents at grandma’s house on Christmas Eve. For many Grand County residents Christmas isn’t complete without stopping by the Granby Christmas Trains display just to evoke, if even only for a few moments, memories of Christmases past.
The Granby Christmas Trains Display is constructed and put on every year by the Grand County Model Railroad Club, with local history authority and railroad enthusiast Dave Naples leading the charge by organizing the efforts of nearly two dozen volunteers who make the whole thing possible. For the past several years the Christmas Trains Display has been held in the Town of Granby’s modular building, adjacent the Granby Soccer Dome.
This year however Naples and the members of the Model Railroad Club were able to secure a storefront space next to Subway in the City Market Shopping Complex on the far southern end of Granby.
The Display’s new location is something Naples was very happy about. Naples said he has been trying to secure the space for the Christmas Trains Display for the last several years and was finally successful this year. As such the Trains Display is significantly larger this year than in years past.
According to Naples the size of this year’s display is 721 square feet. It is more than double the size of the display from the past two years. In 2015 the volunteers constructed a slight mountain range/mesa for the display. This year things have gotten a bit bigger with a 100 square foot mountain. From the top of the displays mountain to a nearby “valley”, filled with miniature figurine cattle and cowboys, there is a scale elevation drop of 1600 feet. This year’s Christmas Trains Display is scaled at 1:48 size.
The work on the Christmas Trains Display begins in earnest each year in the late fall. The Model Railroad Club found out there would be able to utilize the storefront space in the shopping center on Oct. 25. From there Naples said he spent about one-week designing the layout of the Display. After the design work was completed a group of 15 other volunteers spent roughly five-weeks building the Display, accumulating over 600 work hours between them for the assembly.
The Christmas Trains Display opened for the season the day after Thanksgiving and was open again the following day with a high number of visitors stopping by to view the trains. On Friday the Display welcomed 111 visitors. On the second day 152 visitors showed up. Naples attributed much of the increase in visitation numbers to the Displays new location in the City Market shopping complex.
If the trend in visitor numbers from the first two days holds up this year’s Christmas Trains Display will see significantly more visitors this year than in years past. The Display has seen somewhere between 900 and 1,200 visitors on average each year in the past. In 2014 the Christmas Trains dew in roughly 1,800 visitors.
Along with a doubling of the size of the Display the Christmas Trains will be on view for almost twice as long this year versus last year. In 2015 the Display was open for 29 days. This year the Display will be open for 44 days.
“That means we need a lot more people to staff it,” Naples said. “When it gets crowded in here it takes a minimum of three people to run it.”
Along with the members of the Model Railroad Club and the volunteers who construct and staff the Display over the Christmas holiday season the operation relies heavily on the donations of generous local supporters to make it all possible. Additionally Granby’s Country Ace Hardware and Carquest stores sponsored the Display this year. Naples added he was also very thankful to the Subway store next to the Christmas Trains Display and their cooperation this holiday season. “They’ve only yelled at us a couple times,” Naples joked.
For those who volunteer their time and energy towards building and operating the Display each year the effort is largely about the comradery found in creating the Display and the joy they see in the eyes of those who view it. “Watching their eyes light up, it reminds me of me when I was 10-years old,” Naples said. “That is why I do it in the first place.”