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Stop for a book before walking in Rockburn Branch park [Ellicott City]

The Little Free Library in front of Sharon Schwemin's house
The Little Free Library in front of Sharon Schwemin's house (Courtesy Photo)

Situated near Rockburn Branch park, Sharon Schwemin’s home at 5409 Autumn Field Court in Ellicott City gets a fair amount of foot traffic in front of her house. The frequent sight of people taking walks “whether by themselves, with their kids, with their partners, or with their four-legged friends” gave this life-long book lover an idea.

“I’ve been a reader my whole life, and I know how much pleasure books can bring. I’ve always loved the idea of Little Free Libraries and now that I am retired, I decided it was time to start one,” explained Schwemin.

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The Ellicott City home-owner now proudly displays a Little Free Library on her front lawn - a small, green painted wooden box that sits a top a sturdy post, filled with books that are visible through a glass door.

Schwemin’s “take a book, return a book” free book exchange is one of 10 in Ellicott City registered with the non-profit Little Free Libraries organization and listed on its website world map. According to the LFL organization, as of November 2016, there more than 50,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world.

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“I’m really excited to see [people] take a moment to stop and check out the library, and take a book home to enjoy, or drop one off once they are done with it so someone else can enjoy it. It is my hope that this Little Free Library promotes the pleasure of reading, but also a spirit of sharing and community,” said Schwemin.

To learn more about Little Free Libraries, go to littlefreelibrary.org.

Ellicott City boasts two spectacular holiday train gardens that are must see events for train lovers of all ages.

Ellicott City Volunteer Fire Department, Station #2 on 4150 Montgomery Road hosts its 20th annual holiday train display and open house now through January 1. Visiting hours are on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Exceptions to this schedule are Christmas Eve, Sun, Dec. 24 (open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), Christmas Day, Monday, Dec. 25 (closed) and Sun., New Year’s Eve, Dec 31 (open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.).

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The holiday train garden is housed in a glass-walled room that, in the off season, is reserved for the station’s antique fire truck. The massive train display is assembled by a cadre of fire department (career, volunteer and retired) and community members. The end result is a holiday train extravaganza with multiple trains and tracks traversing mountains and tunnels passed towns including the North Pole with Santa Clause and his elves.

Admission is free, however, donations are accepted. In addition, the station hosts an annual toy drive for needy children. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the train garden or any Howard County Fire Station through December 22. For more information, call the station’s community outreach hotline at 410-313-2036 or go to ellicottcityvfa.com

In the historic district, not far from Station #2, the Ellicott City Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Museum’s holiday train garden is back after a one year hiatus due to the July 2016 flood.

Admission is free this year to both the museum and train garden, thanks to a management change. Howard County Department of Parks and Recreation’s living history and heritage program took over operation and management of the museum via a recent partnership with B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.

There are two train gardens to view at the museum. A traditional holiday train garden and a train garden made entirely of Legos. The latter includes trains barreling through holiday Lego sceneries and past replicas of the Ellicott city railroad station and other downtown historic buildings.

The train exhibit run through Sun., Jan. 28, during Museum hours, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Station Museum is at 3711 Maryland Ave. For more information call the museum at 410-313-1945.

Last minute holiday shoppers alert. On Thursday, Dec. 21, from 5 to 9 p.m., visit the historic Ellicott City shopping district during the family-friendly Shop Local-Shop Late event. Treat yourself to a variety of complimentary drinks and treats, discounts, gifts with purchases and samplings offered by participating downtown businesses while you shop the night away.

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