"This has been such a great way for everybody to showcase their talents and their hobbies," said Barbara Franke, senior center director. "This has gotten everybody in the building energized."

Joe Pistritto made 22 feet of miniature country fencing that will go along the edge of the train garden to keep little hands from reaching in.

He also took a basic ceramic house and upgraded it. He painted curtains in the windows, added a double chimney and garage, and surrounded it with bushes he made from plaster of Paris.

In addition to the train garden, which features Fratalli's locomotive and five cars, a snowy village scene, complete with skiers and ice skaters and a trolley that runs back and forth, has been set up in the corner of the room.


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Jennifer Wagner owns 100 locomotives and will bring in an assortment to be put on display.

"This has been a lot of work, but it's been a lot of fun, too," Frattali said. "We already know things we want to make for next year's garden. It looks like we've started a Christmas tradition."

Many of the train garden's architects will be on hand when it is open to the public. They plan on wearing engineer's caps, conductor's hats and Christmas finery.

Dennis Hoover will get people in the mood with a CD he made of 50 railroad songs, including Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo," Woody Guthrie's "Little Black Train" and "Casey Jones" by Eddie Arnold.

The "Jacksonville in Miniature" train garden will be open on Dec. 18, 19 and 27 from noon to 3 p.m. Santa Claus will be on hand to talk with kids on Dec. 18. On Dec. 29, magician Mike Rose will entertain folks of all ages at 11 a.m. The train garden will be open on Dec. 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m.

The train garden is free, but donations will be accepted to help purchase materials for next year's display.

The Jacksonville Senior Center is located at 3605 Sweet Air Road, in Jacksonville. For more information, call 410-887-8208.