Odd Fellows 5th Annual Christmas Trains
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: December 05, 2012
Wes Easley, chief engineer of the annual Odd Fellows Christmas Trains exhibit, said all the nutcrackers standing guard over the display Sunday “exploded from last year... then I had just one or two, but now I look for them everywhere, thrift stores, swap meets. The obsession takes over.”
This year there are about 100 nutcrackers - those traditional symbols of Christmas - of all shapes and sizes tucked away here and there in the four-story train setup, as well as a side table that holds a special “Nightmare Before Christmas” display. The main train display at the historic Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge #314 on East Main Street is now open for holiday viewing in the grand ballroom.
The fifth annual display itself is grand: its four layers of track are alive with hundreds of engines and cars, complete villages, plenty of - at times eclectic - scenery, tiny people, animals, fictional characters, Christmas decorations and trackside seating with comfortable chairs so visitors can sit and stare, and stare. The display is a fantasy land all in miniature dominated by the Southern Pacific HO and G Scale model trains; Easley has even constructed a 1/29th scaled handcrafted Depot model, a wonder of replication.
“This is great!” said visitor Ken Stock of Santa Paula. “There are so many levels... I’ve got to get some trains!”
Stock also was enjoying the smaller “Nightmare Before Christmas” display created by Carlos Juarez: “They even have an Elvis movie playing at the drive in theater and a cemetery tour,” said Stock.
Easley was glad the display was appreciated, but he noted it is not finished. Several helpers were still attaching lights to tracks and doing other work that he said would be ongoing the entire time the display is open to the public.
“I got kind of a late start... I wanted to start November 1,” but Easley said he was about two weeks behind schedule causing him to work eight-hour to 12-hour days along with helpers, including those who also have some display items. Creating the new multi-tier track layout was made possible by salvaging shelving from the now-defunct store that had been the lodge’s first floor tenant.
In all, Easley said this year there is about 600-feet of track. “It was harder to build, but we knew what we were doing because we had drawn plans” for the setup before the actual construction began. “Once we get the basic stuff down we start adding whatever captures our fancy.”
And that includes Easley’s favorite engine, a Southern Pacific Daylight passenger that he will be adding cars to. But there are still plenty of fancy capturing trains and accessories that are sitting idle, including “engines sitting on the side tracks waiting for their turn to play.”
In reaction to an observation that at night when all the holiday lights are strung, other special effects activated and the main lighting dimmed the great room will be spectacular, said Easley, “Well, we’ll find out!”
Each year Chief Engineer Easley and Juarez stage the display with fellow Odd Fellows to benefit the facility, including a future kitchen renovation that will also benefit the public.
This year the display will be on the second floor of the iconic Odd Fellows Lodge/Clock Tower, located at 866 E. Main Street. Hours are Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m.; two shifts on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and on Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The last day for viewing will be Sunday, December 30.
There is an elevator at the rear of the Lodge accessible from South Alley. Donations requested are children 6-13 years old $2 each, and $3 each for everyone 14 and older. Children 5 and under are free. Special group visits can be arranged by calling Easley at 805-766-4400.