In Dundalk, Christmas train gardens have a long history and remain very popular.
Thanks to the efforts of local fire departments and the historical society, you can hop aboard the tradition this holiday season all over the area while learning about the cultural heritage of the yuletide ride.
"We go to the Wise Avenue train garden every year," said Joyce Diamonte, a Dundalk mother. "It is so nice to have such a special Christmas tradition in Dundalk."
Enthusiasts of miniature train gardens explain how the custom came to Maryland, courtesy of German settlers, who valued the precision necessary to create the cheery intricate worlds and used the hobby as a diminutive distraction from the frigid, and sometimes dismal, life of war-torn Europe.
It is Maryland's Moravian descendants who brought with them the religious practice of placing nativity scenes under Christmas trees some 200 years ago.
As the state's population grew in size and diversity, it wasn't long before traditions mingled, offering the modern version of trains coursing through fields of Christmas evergreens or garden holiday stages set to the sound of "chuggah-chuggah" steam engines.
But you don't have to trace your lineage to either of these founders to appreciate the delicate beauty and subtle craftsmanship of the train garden tradition.
Patch has gathered the information about where to find the local train gardens.
Wise Avenue Volunteers, Station No. 27; Wise Avenue, Dundalk, MD, 21222.
The volunteer firefighters from Station No. 27 have been hosting the train garden since 1981. The train garden will be open through Jan. 9. Weekday hours are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday hours are from noon to 9 p.m. The train garden is closed Christmas Day. Admission is $1 and children under seven-years-old are free.
Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society; 4 Center Place, Dundalk, MD, 21222. 410-284-2331
The train garden at the historical society attracted more than 1,000 visitors this year, just on the night of the annual lighting of the historic Dundalk Shopping Center earlier this month. The four-level train garden is different every year, growing in size, complexity and the number of visitors-a scene barely contained inside the historical society's exhibition space. The train garden is open seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m. through Jan. 9. The train garden closes at 4 p.m. Christmas Eve and is closed Christmas Day.
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum; 901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD, 410-752-2490
Celebrate the holiday season at Baltimore's largest holiday display of toy and model train layouts, which rotate displays every weekend. There are also weekend train rides and photo opportunities with Santa through Dec. 19, and Frosty the Snowman through Jan. 2. THe museum is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year's Day.