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John Payne put together the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and villages from Payne's own collection.

Black Friday can be a joy for some and a nightmare for others in the retail world. But in the world of model trains, the date means something entirely different.

Three different area train gardens opened to the public on Friday, Nov. 29. Whether your heart lies with H scale or OH scale, there’s a miniature winter wonderland to fit your fancy in Carroll County.

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Upperco

For the first time, the Upperco Volunteer Fire Company has created a Yuletide Village. The holiday event will be a fundraiser for the fire company.

Inside the activities hall, at 16020 Carnival Ave., the O scale display spans a 16-by-24-foot area with an upper level. Interactive buttons around the display trigger effects including a working water pump in a scene where firefighters work to knock a house fire.

Sharp-eyed viewers will find miniature pieces of the local area, from the Arcadia Bluegrass Festival to a construction site for the future home of the Upperco Volunteer Fire Company.

The company was formed through the merger of companies in Boring and Arcadia in 2017.

Outside, volunteers have put in hours into setting up more than a quarter-mile stroll through light displays. At the end of the path is Santa, who will be waiting for visits from kids. Admittance to the lighted walk is $8 for adults, $7 for military and first-responders, $6 for kids 6-12, and free for kids 5 and younger.

Next to light displays, volunteers have temporarily planted evergreen trees and hand-built wooden displays including Santa’s sled and a stage for carolers. Organizers from the Arcadia Steam Show and the Demolition Derby lent vehicles to be decked out in lights.

Throughout the season, live carolers will perform in the evenings. Dates and time updates will be posted on the fire company’s Facebook page.

About 25 volunteers have worked to build the garden and light display. A few of the organizers are even having their turkey dinner at the activities hall on Thanksgiving so they can be there to put on the final touches.

“It’s been a lot of hours, but we’ve made it fun,” President Scott Boose said.

For more information, visit http://www.uppercovfc.org/content/village/.

John Payne spent about 70 hours setting up the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and villages from Payne's own collection.
John Payne spent about 70 hours setting up the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and villages from Payne's own collection. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Manchester

Although the train garden at the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company has been a tradition for many years, this might be the largest display they’ve ever seen.

The fire company connected with John Payne, a Hampstead enthusiast for over 30 years who was looking to move his large display out of his barn and share it with a wider audience.

The O scale display is close to 800 square feet in the upstairs auditorium of the fire hall at 3209 Main St.

As he sculpted the rivers and mountaintops, and added details to the collectible model houses, he sought to create something viewers could get lost in for hours.

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John Payne put together the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and villages from Payne's own collection.
John Payne put together the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and villages from Payne's own collection. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

“When you walk into the Manchester fire hall and you walk into my train garden, you almost put yourself in these villages that I built,” he said as he described the scene. The display’s parts move and light up as well. He said, “I like to have things that move. It gets kids’ attention.”

Each year, he rebuilds the display in a new way, a process that takes seven to eight weeks. Viewers will find some familiar characters within, from the Grinch to the Polar Express.

It will be open during the Manchester Area Merchants Association’s Black Friday Celebration, which starts with the town tree lighting at 6 p.m. After that the schedule so far is Nov. 30 from noon to 3 p.m.; Dec. 1 from 1 to 4 p.m.; Dec. 7 from noon to 3 p.m.; Dec. 8 from 1 to 4 p.m.; Dec. 13 from noon to 3 p.m.; and Dec. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Viewing is free, but Payne will be collecting donations for a family friend who is fighting cancer at age 14.

After building the garden, he said, “I didn’t want any money. I just wanted the opportunity for people to enjoy my hobby.”

Westminster

The Four County Society of Model Engineers garden returns to the TownMall of Westminster with their annual display.

The HO scale display is modular so that it can be portable and has won several awards in its travels around the nation to shows. It focuses on realistic detail and includes local landmarks like the Point of Rocks Train Tunnel and Twin Arch Bridge in Mount Airy.

It opens to visitors at the mall on Black Friday and runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Jan. 5. On the week of Christmas it is open every day except Christmas Day. The garden will also be open on some Wednesdays in December. A full schedule is available at the mall or at www.fcsme.org.

Those familiar will notice that it has moved to a slightly different location in the mall, closer to the Santa Claus kiosk.

There is a scavenger hunt for children, and the display has buttons that make parts of it light up or move.

For the group members, it’s the only time of the year they get to display their work in one place for longer than a weekend train show.

“Everybody’s friendly and its a great source of information — without the club I think we’d have long given it up,” member Stuart Braiterman said of himself and his wife Lelita, a fellow member.

The display is free for the public, though the group will be accepting donations toward its rent and electric costs for the display.

A video of their setup was featured on the ModelTrainStuff YouTube channel.

For more information on the Four County Society of Model Engineers, visit www.fcsme.org/.

Mount Airy

Just a few days later, the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company’s annual Train Garden Display opens on Dec. 1 at noon.

It will be on view every Saturday and Sunday between noon and 5 p.m. until Dec. 29. It’s free to view and features new displays this year.

Visitors should come to the lower level of the fire station, at 702 N. Main St., for parking and the entrance. For more information, call 301-829-0100.

John Payne put together the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and dioramas.
John Payne put together the holiday train garden at the Manchester fire company. The display, which opens Friday, features O-gauge trains and ultra-detailed landscapes and dioramas. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)
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