Nostalgic Christmas scene, train display offers a variety of stops

December 30, 2009
Santa Paula News

There are holiday train displays and then there are unique holiday train displays - the latter featuring unconventional scenes of science fiction heroes battling it out in the snow, and a drive-in theater complete with snack bar and a screen showing a real movie.

Member of the Santa Paula Independent Order of Odd Fellows are offering the latter, a display that on Saturday alone drew more than 60 people to the second floor of the historic clock tower building located on East Main Street just in the first few hours it was open to the public.

The display, created by Wes Easley with help from other Odd Fellows, including Grand Noble Carlos Juarez, drew families with children, adults and those perhaps needing a little post-Christmas comfort.

“One lady came in and stood by the door,” said Easley, and when greeted by Juarez told him although she was not particularly interested in the display, her husband, a miniature train lover, had passed away about three years ago. “She watched the train for a few minutes and then she left... later one man came in expecting maybe a setup on a desk,” and Easley said when the visitor saw the display “he was blown away!”

As were many who saw the enormous display carefully laid out throughout the great room: eight running engines, a New Orleans trolley, about 40 cars and 3 additional engines set on sidetracks. In all, probably more than 300 feet of track are laid throughout the room’s numerous displays, ranging from an old-fashioned Southern Pacific engine hauling Limoneira Company cars carrying lemons and a daintier steam engine - complete with red glow from the coal burner - with many sleek cars to more modern Metrolink-type passenger cars.

One display has winter recreation as the theme. The train winds around a mountain where four-wheelers roam, skiers come down the mountain, while other small figures try their hand at climbing. 

“What is my favorite? I think just in general they all are; when you turn on the lights something will catch your eye, then something else... and they all evoke a memory.”

Scenes on display include Santa Paula Cruise Nite with nifty classic cars lined up for admiring, multiple bears scampering in the snow, a replica of the Depot built by Easley also featuring Dave’s Christmas Trees and its teardrop trailer business office, Nativity scenes, and a science fiction battle line drawn pitting Star Trek against Star Wars figurines. There’s something different everywhere you look, with trains and cars ranging from the smaller HO scale to the large impressive G scale models.

Juarez noted that he and Melanie Binsley were out shopping Saturday - “Locally,” he stressed - just hours before the display was opened to the public, to purchase more items for the tableaus.

Handling the controls of a larger engine, Juarez turned it off, the engine and its cars gradually coming to a stop and realistic power winding down sound effects. With a flip of the switch the engine came back to life, sounding exactly like the real thing as it cycled growing power.

“It wasn’t a kid hobby,” said Easley of his collection. “I was too poor to have anything like this.” But about 15 years ago Easley bought a train set for his children to enjoy as it circled the Christmas tree, and he was hooked.

“I just buy what hits me! But I try to get as much Southern Pacific as I can because of the local connection.”

Next year Easley said he plans to expand the train display utilizing “some really good ideas.... This is a pretty much put together thing, but I want to have multi-level grades, trestles, crossings, put in a lot more effort.”

Sandy Easley said she appreciates her husband’s fascination with the trains: “If you sit back and just listen to the trains it’s mesmerizing.” Members of the Odd Fellows Lodge spent more than 160 hours creating the display that features many accessory items owned by Don McIntosh. 

“You know, it’s true what they say about men,” said Juarez. “They never really grow up, but do learn how to behave in public.”

The display, located at 868 E. Main St., will again be open for public viewing Wednesday, December 30 from 6 to 9 p.m. Juarez said anyone who would like more information or to schedule a special tour for a group or an organization should call 525-4478 extension 115.

The display will continue to reflect the holiday until January 3rd.

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