Searching for the Machine Tool

A fabulous model train display had more to hunt for than hidden Santa figurines and miniature dinosaurs. Finding what you are looking for can be a kind of gift. May all your searches be fulfilled this holiday season.


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Model trains and Christmas have gone together since the early days of Lionel train sets. The classic holiday scene of the household Christmas tree almost always included a circle of track underneath with an old-fashioned steam engine racing around it. Elaborate model train displays are still popular parts of holiday decorations in store windows, shopping malls, building lobbies and other public spaces. And sometimes, a model train display includes a scaled-down version of a machine tool, I’m happy to say.

I discovered this on a recent holiday visit to Entertrainment Junction, a popular year-round model train attraction in the Greater Cincinnati area. I was there with my brother, who’s shared my interest in model trains since we were kids growing up together. The model train “layout” at this attraction is enormous and very well done. The museum-quality models of trains in different eras of American history operate in highly realistic and detailed scenes depicting the growth and development of railroads, from the days before the Civil War to the latest trends in intermodal shipping and unitized trains of bulk commodities that distinguish railroads today.

A popular activity when enjoying this layout is to search for items or features on lists prepared by the Entertrainment Junction staff. It’s a great way to get kids (and adults, too) to focus their attention and explore the historically accurate scenes through which the trains are running. Of course, I have my own informal list of things to look for on any train display, and my list always includes stuff related to machine tools and manufacturing. I like to see whether manufacturing is included in the story of our country’s growth and how well the machining equipment is rendered in miniature.

Sure enough, among the various scale models of typical trackside railroad structures, warehouses and factories, I found a machine shop with a number of machine tools clearly visible inside. In this case, the one inside the front double doors appeared to be some sort of WWII-era turning machine, a VTL perhaps. It was a small but gratifying Ah-Ha! moment.

The holidays are often a time of searching, whether it is to find that perfect present for a loved one, or to find the meaning behind our religious beliefs, family traditions or ethnic connections. Finding what you are looking can be a kind of gift, too. May all your searches be fulfilled this season, and throughout the coming New Year.