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December 8, 2013

Museum on track for holidays

DUNCAN — Although watching car after car go by while waiting for the caboose to pass at a railroad crossing is usually inconvenient, there is something almost mesmerizing about a model train going round and round a track.

In the past, many a family Christmas tree was accompanied by a model train at its base. In Duncan, one woman set up an entire Christmas village, complete with train, at her home and opened it up to the public. That scene has now been recreated by the Stephens County Historical Museum.

“I was told that Laverne Cummings’ village was at the museum,” said Cova Williams, museum director. “I used to take my children when they were little to Mrs. Cummings’ house at Christmas to see the train.”

Pieces of the ceramic village, which Cummings made herself, were in various places around the museum. Williams, with help from volunteers, hunted them down to be set up for the holidays.

Other pieces, some believed to have been from Pat Hale and a few borrowed from Vicki Zimmerman, have been added to complete the village. There are churches, homes, businesses and even a small version of the old Stephens County Court House. Many of the structures even light up.

All are set on a layer of “snow.” However, one aspect to complete the vision was still missing until about a week ago.

While visiting the 905 Museum next door to the Historical Museum, Williams expressed her desire to have a train go around the village. Roy Grabman, a member of the Southwestern Oklahoma Railroad Association, volunteered one of his.

“All of the cars, except for one, are from the 1950s,” said Grabman. “They are part of the first model train I got when I was six years old.”

A Lionel train, it can whistle and even chug smoke if smoke tablets are used. One car features the ACME characters the Roadrunner pursued by Wylie Coyote.

“That is a loading dock my dad made me from orange crate lumber,” Grabman said while pointing to the wooden structure. “I’ve had it for more than 60 years.”

Grabman said it is still traditional for him to put a model train around his tree at home. As a child, Christmas is the time when the trains would usually be brought out, he said.

For the community’s enjoyment, Williams said the village and train will be set up during the museum’s regular times, 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. She will also keep the doors open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays, especially for viewing.

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