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Holiday Express Rolls into Town

Something for everyone at Holiday Train Show in Fairfax Station.

Jeff Mitulla would not mind a little snow this weekend: it would give him a chance to use the snowplow on his train.

Mitulla, a board member with the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum and representative of the Washington, Virginia and Maryland Garden Railway Society, was called on to clear the more than 600 feet of model railroad track that encircles the museum for the Holiday Train Show a few years ago.

"I have a G-gauge train, which is built on a 1:29 scale of a full-sized train," Mitulla said. While not big enough for children to ride on, he enjoys watching the little ones run around the museum during the holiday event, chasing the train around the property on Fairfax Station Road.

"The kids really enjoy it a lot and that’s the best thing about this, it really is a very family-oriented event," Mitulla said.

This is the 18th year for the show, which combines model trains of all sizes, shapes and styles and attracts up to 1,000 people, said Joan Rogers, an organizer of the event.

Visitors can expect to see the same model train setups they have loved in the past, including an N-gauge train set up in the museum’s restored caboose outside.

"There’s something for everyone," Rogers said.

The museum will be decorated in holiday greens and reds indoors and out, Rogers said, but the real show will be the trains, brought in by the museum’s long list of volunteers and supporters.

"We have everything from Z-scale, which are the smallest, to the G, or Garden, scale, which runs around the building," she said. "We even have a model of the train that used to go through this area," back when Fairfax County was still a rural countryside.

TRAINS OF all styles will be on display, including one made entirely of Legos by a high school student named Monty.

"There’s an interesting mix of trains and people," Mitulla said. "People are curious about the history of the museum and the area when this was a real working train station during the Civil War, and we have a lot of photos of the area from 50, 75 or 100 years ago."

The combination of trains and the holidays is a natural one, a way for parents and grandparents to share a bit of their childhood with their young ones, Mitulla said.

"I think it probably got started in the early 1900s when electric trains were popular gifts for parents to give their sons," he mused. "And what better place to put up a train than under a Christmas tree?"

Each year, a handful of museum members offer their services as Loco Docs, who try their best to repair broken, damaged or over-loved trains, engines and other train-related accessories.

"Sometimes we get a little fella who comes in with his grandpa and a little engine they’d like to get fixed," said Jack Strange, one of the Loco Docs this year. "It’s so nice because the grandfather’s eyes light up because he knows he can give this to his grandchild and share their memories."

Any train components can be brought in for examination, and if they cannot be repaired on the spot, the Docs will take them home to be fixed for a small fee. Any repairs made during the event are fixed free of charge, Strange said.

"We just have a ball doing this," he said. "Working on these trains brings back a lot of memories for us."

Trains have been important to Strange since his own childhood.

"I’ve had trains since I was little," he said. "I still have my first train, a 1946 Lionel, which still works just fine. My dad gave it to me and it never occurred to me to get rid of it."