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Howard County Times
Howard County

LEGO and history collide at this year’s B&O Ellicott City Station Museum holiday train garden

A miniature winter wonderland has returned to the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum, which hosts its annual holiday train garden through Jan. 8.

“We get phone calls all year just asking if we’re going to have the train garden,” said Emily Mosher, a program manager at the museum. “It’s definitely become a part of people’s holiday traditions, which is awesome.”

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While the Ellicott City station has hosted a holiday train display since at least the 1970s, Mosher said, this is the first year the exhibit has been made primarily of LEGO blocks. Visitors can spot characters and settings from Star Wars, Harry Potter and Disney films scattered throughout the historic two-story building.

“I built [LEGO] R2-D2, which was very challenging,” said archaeologist Kelly Palich, who spent several weeks working on the droid. “There’s a lot of intricate parts and they don’t always want to snap together.”

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The holiday train garden exhibit is now open until Jan. 8 at the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum.

Staff with the Howard County Recreation and Parks’ Natural and Historic Resources Division started planning and building the sets in October, although the display itself was set up in about a day.

“They’re done so well, you don’t even realize it’s LEGO,” said Kim Little, 58, of Colstrip, Montana, who was visiting Old Ellicott City for the first time and decided to stop by the museum.

“It definitely is a bit intensive in the fall, but it’s worth it when we get to see everybody come through,” Mosher said.

In addition to the holiday train garden, volunteers also help maintain a year-round 40-foot model of the first 13 miles of B&O Railroad track that extended from Baltimore to Ellicott City, then called Ellicott’s Mills. Built in 1831, the Ellicott City Station is the oldest surviving railroad depot in the U.S.

“We were right there with the very beginnings of railroading in America, which really transformed how we travel and how we think about travel today,” Mosher said.

It took several years for steam-powered locomotives to replace the B&O’s original horse-drawn railcars. The locomotives’ popularity exploded in the first half of the 19th century, and during the Civil War the Ellicott City station served as a critical troop and supply depot for Union forces.

After freight service was discontinued at the station in 1972, the nonprofit Historic Ellicott City, Inc., stepped in to save and preserve the building. In 2017, recreation and parks took over management of the facility from the B&O Railroad Museum.

Whether the draw is LEGO or history, staff hope the station keeps serving Ellicott City residents for years to come.

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A Lego train races through one of the miniature arrangements featuring various Disney and Pixar characters The holiday train garden exhibit is now open until Jan. 8 at the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum.

“Not many towns can claim that they have the oldest of something,” said facility leader Conor Conneally. “It puts Ellicott City on the map.”

The Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is free.

To learn more about the museum and holiday train garden, visit: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/ecborail


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