Choo Choo. Houston Is on Track for Trains This Holiday Season

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is on board with the hottest holiday attraction this season: trains.EXPAND
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is on board with the hottest holiday attraction this season: trains.
Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science

Trains are trending right now, especially in Houston. We've got miniature trains that would make any model collector swoon with envy, and we also have a few hop-on-board trains designed to take us through the holiday season. We made a list, and we're checking it twice. So pull into the station, check the schedules and let's go.

If words like HO scale and S gauge are familiar, you'll appreciate Trains Over Texas over at The Houston Museum of Natural Science. Built from scratch using O scale models, this ginormous display calls for multiple trains crisscrossing the Lone Star State, whizzing past Enchanted Rock, Pedernales Falls, The Balcones Escarpment and even Big Bend.

Trains Over Texas at The Houston Museum of Natural Science passes through miniature versions of Galveston, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.EXPAND
Trains Over Texas at The Houston Museum of Natural Science passes through miniature versions of Galveston, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.
Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science

Each of the major cities in Texas is represented, but we especially like the iconic "Be Someone" graffiti used for our fair city. It's the brainchild of David Temple, the associate paleontologist over at HMNS, and Roger Farkash, the creative director and chief traingineer for Train Worx. It's the largest indoor O scale railroad in Texas and is roughly the size of a tennis court. It took nine months to build and three 53-foot trucks to deliver to HMNS. It currently has a Christmas theme but, come January, they're going to "super" it up by adding a stadium and a sports theme.

Trains Over Texas runs  daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Super Bowl LI (February 5). Closed December 25. 5555 Hermann Park Drive, 713-639-4629, hmns.org. The exhibit is included with admission to the permanent exhibit halls. Free to $25.

The Second Baptist Church Woodway campus features seven different train displays, as well as an overhead train that winds its way throughout the atrium.EXPAND
The Second Baptist Church Woodway campus features seven different train displays, as well as an overhead train that winds its way throughout the atrium.
Photo by Susie Tommaney

The model trains over at Second Baptist Church are bigger and better than ever this year. They're spread out in the atrium of the Woodway campus, with ladders strategically positioned for better viewing. It pairs perfectly with this year's new Christmas show, Christmas Under the Big Top, a dramatic telling of a high-flying family tasked with keeping the circus alive. Nine performances are scheduled between December 16 and 20; ticket prices range from $10 to $25. Also on view in the narthex of the worship center are six glass display cases featuring nativities from around the world that are made with every type of material imaginable. Some of the crèches are crude and clearly handmade, while others are polished and sparkle like the sun; the collection was amassed by Gerald B. Ray, who served as the music minister from 1970 until 1998.

What could be cooler than popping your head up in the bubble to see a miniature world surrounding you? It's part of the annual train display at Second Baptist Church's Woodway campus.EXPAND
What could be cooler than popping your head up in the bubble to see a miniature world surrounding you? It's part of the annual train display at Second Baptist Church's Woodway campus.
Photo by Susie Tommaney

There are seven different train displays in the atrium at Second Baptist Church, featuring miniature worlds from the movie Frozen, a village scene from the town of Bethlehem, Disney characters and so much more. The longer you spend viewing the exhibit, the more you'll see. Teddy bears are climbing the ladder to decorate a tree, lights twinkle brightly and an overhead train weaves its way throughout the atrium area, while little ones can play pop-up inside a dome for an up-close look at the miniature action.

Christmas train viewing is available Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.; and 30 minutes before and after each of the worship services (Saturdays at 6 p.m., Sundays at 9:30 and 11:11 a.m. and Christmas Eve) and 30 minutes before and after each of the Christmas Under the Big Top performances. Through January 1. 6400 Woodway, 713-465-3408, second.org. Free.

Christmas Village at Bayou Bend includes model trains inside the stained glass and mirrored spiegeltent.EXPAND
Christmas Village at Bayou Bend includes model trains inside the stained glass and mirrored spiegeltent.
Photo by Cameron Bertuzzi

Last year's Christmas Village at Bayou Bend was such a success (yes, yes, we know about the lines) that the organizers over at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, went all in for the next round. Not only have they expanded the holiday lights into a butterfly-shaped garden and added a faux snowball zone, but they also increased the hours of operation, expanded the number of days they're open, reinforced the popular bridge to better handle all that foot traffic and, in a stroke of genius, instituted timed tickets for viewing the Ima Hogg mansion. But what really put us in a tizzy is what's happening inside the colorful stained glass and mirrored spiegeltent: model trains!

Every five minutes, a snowman will blow snow at the entrance to the spiegeltent at Christmas Village at Bayou Bend.EXPAND
Every five minutes, a snowman will blow snow at the entrance to the spiegeltent at Christmas Village at Bayou Bend.
Photo by Cameron Bertuzzi

Inside the Belgian tent of mirrors is a 12-foot Christmas tree, and it's surrounded by three sets of tracks running around the tree through themed villages of west Texas, old England, an Alpine village and an American cityscape with skyscrapers and modern buildings. One of the MFAH staffers channeled his passion for model trains and, after 1,000 man-hours and a little help from elves, assembled the display. There's a snowman at the entrance and about every five minutes he blows snow outside the spiegeltent.

Christmas Village at Bayou Bend runs daily, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed December 24, 25 and 31. Through January 1. 6003 Memorial, mfah.org/christmasvillage. Free to $23.



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