The Trains of Christmas, at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum (300 S. Burhans Blvd., 301-739-4665, http://www.roundhouse.org features an "O" scale, three-rail layout with steam and diesel trains that carry the brands of Lionel, MTH, Williams, Weaver and others.
The snow scenes decorate the four levels of layout as the smoke comes out of the stack and the sounds of old-time trains fill the air.
You can also view railroad artifacts and memorabilia, and the children can run some of the trains. In case you catch the train bug, a gift shop is available for your last-minute shopping.
The roundhouse is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. and also on Dec. 27 and 30. It will be closed Dec. 24, 25, and 31. The exhibit is on display through Feb. 26. Admission is $5 for adults and 50 cents for children 12 and younger.
Vroom and chug
Head southeast to see the humongous setup Tom Crockett erects every year at his Tans Cycles & Parts (9032 Chesapeake Ave. in Calvert County's North Beach, 410-257-6619, 301-855-8337, http://www.tanscyclesparts.com. Started in 1996, the 20-foot-by-20-foot platform has an eye-popping 31 tracks on five levels with 32 "O" gauge Lionel trains chugging hither and yon.
It takes almost a week to bring the scene from storage to life in the middle of the store. It only takes about five or six hours to dismantle it, says Ralph Carrello, who helps with the setup and making sure all the connections, bells and whistles work.
You'll also see a carnival, waterfall and construction site, and you're pretty certain to see what's new in the Lionel line because Tans is an official Lionel dealer.
On a good Saturday, about 200 people stop by to see this spectacular exhibit. The trains run on schedule from 3 to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
In case you don't make it to North Beach this winter, Tom also starts the trains moving for Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and, just for fun, to bring the circus to this miniature town.
The other seasonal train gardens are smaller than the winter one, so you can spend more time taking in all the buildings, trees, tunnels, bridges and other accessories.
Head to Washington for two astonishing displays. The Norwegian Christmas at Union Station (40 Massachusetts Ave. NE, 202-289-1908, http://www.unionstationdc.com http://www.norway.orgis in its 14th year.
Trains move through a miniature but realistic Norwegian winter landscape complete with mountains, fjords, farms, a fishing village and a ski jump. If you look closely, you may even see a mountain troll or two.
Norwegian Christmas is on display through Dec. 30, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. There is no admission fee.
At the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory (100 Maryland Ave. SW, 202-225-8333, http://www.usbg.gov can see eight model trains and iconic (and specific) buildings made of plant materials. You're supposed to determine who lives in such places as presidential homes and critter condos in a variety of styles.
The Garden Court will display a 24-foot Douglas fir from Garrett County, done up in its finest, 17 varieties of poinsettias and other seasonal floral displays.
The display is open through Jan. 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Live entertainment will include a barbershop quartet, a jazz quartet, a choral group and a klezmer band. Admission is free.