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An entranced child gazes in through a department store window at a model railway.

Trains of Christmas Past

Once upon a time, a child’s dream was to get a train set for Christmas. Michael Moore from Toy Train Tips and Tricks keeps the dream alive by celebrating model railways on his YouTube channel. This month he revisits a moment of department store magic, scrutinizing some famous trains of Christmas past.

Michael received his first train set when he was two and has been collecting trains and modeling railways ever since. This month he discusses a scene from the nostalgic 1983 film, A Christmas Story. Warmly wrapped children line the windows of a department store, entranced by a snowy model railway running inside. Michael takes a close look at the locomotives and rolling stock as they go round, mostly models made by the long-established toy-train firm Lionel Trains. The film leaves the year deliberately ambiguous, and the low resolution of the frames makes identifying details challenging. Michael’s eye, however, is sharp and his knowledge impressive. He identifies almost every boxcar, tank car, hopper car, and caboose on the tracks, including items produced over 30 years before the film was made. At one point he identifies a car using its blurry reflection in the child-lined window.

The red cover of Logomotive is displayed on a white background in Michael Moore’s review on his YouTube channel, Toy Train Tips and Tricks.
Michael Moore introduces Logomotive 3.15 minutes into his YouTube episode on The Trains of a Christmas Story.

Logo-spotting for railway modelers
A key part of identifying a car is to look for the logo and work out which railroad it belonged to. Logo-spotting comes naturally to Michael Moore and it’s a passion for the railfan designer Ian Logan, author with Jonathan Glancey of Logomotive: Railroad Graphics and the American Dream. In this episode on the trains of Christmas past, Michael Moore reviews Ian Logan’s book, explaining how its focus is the visual design of America’s railroads, from the logos to passenger station design to advertising – and even the fonts used by the railroads.

‘The book provides amazing visual examples of how all these elements combined to sell the dream of American railroads to the public.’

Michael is giving out a 20% discount code for Logomotive, so in addition to revisiting the trains of Christmas past and getting a taste of his formidable knowledge, you can obtain this railway modeler’s handbook at a special gift price by watching his episode on The Trains of A Christmas Story.

Logomotive lies open beside a cup of coffee, displaying a double-page spread on the Illinois Central Gulf railroad.
In one of Ian Logan’s period photos published in Logomotive, a caboose brings up the rear of an Illinois Central Gulf freight train painted with an eye-catching logo introduced in 1966.
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