Stationed at Union Terminal

A beloved holiday tradition has officially returned to the Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) after a two-year hiatus during the restoration of Union Terminal.

One of the world’s largest portable train displays, developed by B & O Railroad in 1935, evolved from a functional business and training tool for American railway operations into a carefully preserved Queen City gem. Ever since its postwar unveiling as a holiday display within the downtown lobby of Cincinnati Gas & Electric (later to become Duke Energy), the trains have been well loved by adults and children alike.

The display’s 300 miniature rail cars and 60 engines are handmade reproductions that faithfully represent their prototypes down to the smallest detail. Running along 1,000 feet of track, they showcase a stunning variety of passenger and freight trains from various eras — boxcars, flat cars, tank cars, Pullman cars, baggage cars, postal cars, early steam locomotives, and, later, diesel engine models.

Equally fascinating are the details of the railway’s surrounding landscape, which includes homes, shops, factories, farms, depots, and roundhouses.

What has become known over time as the Duke Energy Holiday Trains entered its newest phase in 2011, when it was moved to the Cincinnati Museum Center for permanent exhibition and ongoing conservation.

The display’s brand new location on the CMC’s mezzanine level affords a more open space with better perspectives for viewing. Visitors will also notice a stylized yet familiar city skyline, courtesy of Reverb Art + Design. This backdrop includes iconic Cincinnati landmarks such as Union Terminal, Music Hall, Paul Brown Stadium, and the Roebling Bridge.

The Duke Energy Trains anchor the CMC’s Holiday Junction, which also features custom-built Lego creations, an interactive snowy wonderland with northern lights, and a riding train. On November 23rd, Santa Claus flew in by helicopter, and he will be around through the holiday season.

Come rediscover a beloved holiday tradition in the newly restored Union Terminal, Cincinnati’s own historic train station.

A visit to Holiday Junction and the Duke Energy Trains is free with CMC admission, which includes access to other newly reopened galleries within Union Terminal — the Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science and Natural History, and the Cincinnati History Museum.

Support for STEAM in the Museum is provided by Cincinnati Museum Center as it educates and inspires the leaders, builders and dreamers of this generation and the next.

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Read more articles by Sarah Dupee.

Sarah Dupee is a freelance writer, teacher, translator, and musician with a background in French and Francophone Studies.