An empty store space next to Liberatore's Ristorante at the Bel Air Town Center has been filled with model trains of varying sizes in recent weeks, as well as the people, young and old, who enjoy watching the trains speed through Harford County scenes.
Members of The Mason Dixon Large Scale Railroad Society will be operating their holiday train garden through Jan. 11.
Manny Pospisil, a founding member, said attendance has been strong since the exhibit opened the day after Thanksgiving.
It is one of several holiday train gardens around Harford County: Christopher's Train Garden is open at Broom's Bloom Dairy south of Bel Air and the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company is hosting its 32nd Annual Train Garden at its main firehouse at 3825 Federal Hill Road through Jan. 12.
Hours for the Jarrettsville train garden can be found on the fire company's website, www.jarrettsvillevfc.com.
Pospisil said attendance at the Bel Air train garden has been driven in part by diners at nearby restaurants in the Bel Air Town Center such as Liberatore's and Chili's.
"We get that dinner crowd that comes to eat and visit us, or visits us and then eats," Pospisil said.
He was also expecting large crowds for weekend before Christmas and the day after Christmas, as Harford County residents bring relatives who are visiting for the holiday.
Several displays are in the space next to Liberatore's, with the main display measuring 26 feet wide and 95 feet long. It has two tracks with six to eight trains running at a time.
It is made of individual modules built by members of the group, which has about 18 regular participants. Each person builds a section of track on a display.
The majority of the trains run on electricity, but some members bring trains with locomotives that run on "live steam."
Distilled water is heated with butane or propane, and the steam powers the radio-controlled engines.
"It runs around huffing and puffing and just looks great," Pospisil said.
The various model displays include mock-ups of the Harford County train stations of yesteryear such as the former Ma & Pa Railroad station in Bel Air, and the Whiteford train station.
It also includes the locomotive characters from the children's television show "Thomas & Friends," such as the title character Thomas and his cohorts Emily and Percy.
Children rode on their parents' and grandparents' shoulders to get a good look at the trains making their way around the track of the main display Thursday evening.
Lisa Fiore's 3-year-old son Nicholas was enamored watching the light blue Thomas locomotive motor around a small circular track and through a mountain.
"Nicky loves it because "Thomas & Friends" is his favorite," Lisa Fiore said.
Pospisil said the train garden is also popular with older people. As Pospisil was being interviewed Thursday afternoon, a group of senior citizens visited the display.
"They all reminisce about the days when they were children and had trains running around the Christmas tree," he said. "It's fun listening to them."