The Summit Ridge Railroad

The Christmas Village

Shortly before Thanksgiving of 2011 my wife and I were browsing in Michaels and saw a Lemax display of Christmas village houses. There was a church in the set that we really liked so we bought it with the idea that we would put it on one of our tables for Christmas. Then a week or so later we saw a Post Office we liked, then a restaurant. At that point I suggested a separate table for the Christmas village and, of course, put the train on the same table.

The problem was, the train was broken. No reliable power supply. I started checking the price of DC power supplies and kept thinking it was a waste to replace the DC power supply when I knew I really wanted DCC. During my many, many browsing sessions of hobby shops and eBay I happened across a sale on Bachmann’s inside frame 4-4-0s with DCC On-board. I bought one and a Digitrax Zephyr Xtra.

The model railroad bug was back. Next thing I knew I had added a 0-4-2 Porter with sound, two Bachmann EZ-Command switches and enough track to make a passing siding at one end of the oval. I really did not like the way the passenger car set looked behind the 4-4-0 so I bought one of the Bachmann drover cabooses. Truthfully it didn’t look much better but the shorter train (just the engine, boxcar and caboose) looked a little less ridiculous chasing itself around the oval. I bought two 1″ thick 4′x8′ sheets of pink foam board (foam board is not a big seller in southern Arizona) and plopped one on the floor in the corner of the living room with the oval and three Christmas village buildings.

It was always the intention that the whole thing was a Christmas decoration. Therefore, it had to be not only portable but as compact as possible. It was to spend 10 months a year in storage. The working plan was to build a low frame and laminate the two 1″ boards to be the village base. I built a simple three legged base out of 1×4 lumber that I was going to laminate to the bottom of the foam. I would add foam ramps for some height variation and paint the foam but the buildings and track would just sit in place during Christmas and return to storage for the rest of the year. The legs would be removable and the thickness of the foam base with frame would slide between my storage shelves in the garage. The base with frame could not exceed 6 inches in thickness. Originally the village was supposed to be very low to the ground. We tried several different length legs but nothing looked right. The reality was the 4×8 sheet was just too large for where we wanted the display. At the same time my mind was devising ways to use all of that new found real estate. We finally decided that the largest the Christmas village could be was roughly 3.5′x6.5′. We also decided it needed to have rounded corners to look less square. We thought that wavy sides would look the least intrusive. Out to the garage for assembly went the Christmas village.

Original frame
Original frame