Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Toy Trains: The Story of the Christmas Railroad

“Re-joice! Re-joice! Again, I say re-joice!” said Joyce Trewyn’s father, sounding like a train whistle. For many years, her father was a train conductor on the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad.

During the Christmas season, he walked around the house with his conductor hat, hanging lanterns at the windows. Every Christmas Eve, he would hang his largest lantern on their front porch next to their holly wreath. Before anyone exchanged presents, he insisted on setting up his toy train beneath the Christmas tree.

“Joyce, it’s time to put up the Christmas Railroad. I need your help. I can’t do it without you!” he said.

“Dad, I’m putting on my pajamas,” Joyce said, calling from her bedroom. “I’ll be right there.”

Even at age eleven, Joyce hadn’t grown tired of watching her father set up the toy train for Christmas. Not only had he handpicked the locomotives, coal cars, train cars, boxcars, caboose, and trolleys, but he also set up the track on the railroad and hand-painted every snowy building and mountain. Each road, sign, pavement, and sidewalk looked like a miniature version of the real thing with trees and rocks.

After winding through a downtown area with its own Grand Central Terminal, station platform, shops, and streetlamps, the train chugged up a hill past a coaling station and through a covered bridge into a village. The Christmas village decorated with colorful lights had homes, schools, churches, lakes, and rivers with green scenery. A water tower stood in the middle of the train set. Of course, it became a snow tower in the winter.

“Don’t forget about the people who ride the train!” Joyce said, running down the stairs in her red and green striped Christmas train pajamas. She wore her own conductor’s hat. “Here are the passengers! Don’t leave anybody behind!”

She handed her father a plastic bag of people who would soon get the ride of their lives.

“I’m coming with the hot chocolate!” Mrs. Trewyn said. “Serving up marshmallows, cocoa, and whipped cream!”

As Joyce helped her father set up the train set, piecing together the curving train track, her mother watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” on television in black and white. 

The train’s radio-controlled transmitter had its own station and speakers where it played Christmas carols as the train ran.

“This is my favorite thing to do at Christmas!” Mr. Trewyn said, drinking hot chocolate while running the toy train. “Re-joice! Re-joice! Again, I say re-joice.”

“Now the train has to pick up the people,” Joyce said, stopping the train for each person who needed a ride.

“Be careful!” her father said, watching Joyce zoom the train faster than it should run on its brittle tracks. “Try not to get the train into an accident!”

“Don’t worry, Dad! It’s all under control,” Joyce said, slamming the brakes on the train.

“Well, then, I’m going to bed now,” her father said, yawning. “Tomorrow will be an early morning. There are Christmas presents to open!”

After Clarence the angel had finished saving George Bailey in the film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Mrs. Trewyn turned off the television and headed to bed with her husband.

“I’m staying up a little longer,” Joyce said, running the locomotive full speed ahead.

“Just don’t stay up too late,” her mother said, kissing Joyce on the head.

Only minutes after both her parents were asleep, Joyce ran the locomotive off the train tracks, hitting the covered bridge, which toppled the water tower and collapsed the entire train set, closing Grand Central Terminal.

The locomotive smoked, blinking its headlight, and the caboose lost a wheel.

“Oh no!” Joyce said, gasping. “What am I going to do now? I have to fix this by morning. Dad will be so angry!”

She ran into the storage closet, pulling out the paint, brushes, glue, foam, wood, screwdriver, and hammer.

“How am I going to fix this?” Joyce said, looking at her supplies. “I think I need an angel, like in the movie Mom was watching on TV.” 

Tears filled Joyce’s face, as the railroad transmitter still played Christmas carols.

“Angels, if you can hear me, could you stop doing what you’re doing now, and come help me fix the Christmas Railroad?” Joyce prayed. “I smashed it big time. Thank you. Yours truly, Joyce.”

All of a sudden, a cold breeze blew the family room window open, blowing the curtains to the ceiling. Joyce ran to shut the window, only to be greeted by an elderly-looking man, trying to climb through the window.

“Who are you?” Joyce said. “I can only let you in the house if you’re an angel.”

“I’m Gabriel,” the angel said. “I’m a Christmas angel that works extra hours on Christmas Eve.”

“Gabriel? Yes, I’ve heard of you,” Joyce said. “You should try to get your own movie.”

“Maybe we can work on that together,” Gabriel said. “Right now, we need to fix your train set, so it works by morning.”

“Okay, but why don’t you have any wings?” Joyce said. “How do I know that you’re not a burglar?”

“I can tell you all about it, if you just let me crawl through the window,” Gabriel said, putting one leg after the other in front of him, handing her a new locomotive.

“Be careful not to hurt yourself. I guess you’re not a thief, or you wouldn’t come with gifts,” Joyce said.

For the next five hours, Joyce and Gabriel painted, glued, and hammered, emptying every toy train box from Gabe’s bag.

“The Christmas Railroad looks new!” Joyce said. “My dad will think it’s my Christmas gift to him.”

“I don’t usually play with trains, but even the smallest tragedies can be turned into something good,” Gabriel said, cleaning up the last bits of the mess. “Now I have to leave before your parents find out I was here!”

“Do you think you could come back every year? I’ll keep the window open at Christmas!” Joyce said.

“I’ll try my best,” Gabriel said. “If someone else needs me on Christmas Eve in an emergency, I’ll have to visit you another night.”

“Every time I play with the toy train set, I’ll think of you,” Joyce said, hugging him.

Then Gabriel crawled back through the window. “Remember, God’s angels are always nearby, even if you can’t see them!”

A flash of light blinded Joyce for a moment. She could no longer see Gabriel.

“Where did you go?” Joyce said, poking her head out the window and looking for Gabe.

“Merry Christmas! Joyce, you’re awake already,” Mr. Trewyn said. “Are you trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue? Cold air is coming inside the house!”

Joyce closed the window and turned around to find her mother and father in their Christmas pajamas and robes.

“Wow! You spent all night renovating the Christmas Railroad as my gift. I love it!” her dad said, kissing her. “Re-joice! Re-joice! Again, I say re-joice!”

“I knew I heard noise last night,” her mother said. “You would have thought it was Santa Claus jumping down the chimney!”

“It was the angel Gabriel,” Joyce said. “I prayed and got an angel. It worked on TV.”

Both Joyce’s parents gave her a funny look, thinking she must have had an extra-large imagination on Christmas morning.

“Come on!” Mr. Trewyn said. “I’m the conductor! The train has a lot of people to pick up! We can’t be late!”

Joyce and her father rejoiced all Christmas day that the Christmas Railroad was open for business, working better than ever. Everyone arrived to his or her destination right on time.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

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