Baltimore Firefighters warm hearts with Holiday Train Garden - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Baltimore Firefighters warm hearts with Holiday Train Garden

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Sharknado is hot right now – so hot you’d think the franchise was practically on fire. It is, in a sense, at Baltimore City Fire Department’s Station 45, where dozens of toy sharks have joined the Griswolds, little Ralphie, Dorothy and Toto, and other popular characters for this year’s annual Holiday Train Garden.

Now in its sixty-second year, the train garden survived cutbacks at the station which could well have derailed the treasured holiday treat. But the loss of an engine hasn’t stopped the dedicated firefighters who pour hundreds of hours into turning the Mt. Washington station into a center for seasonal cheer.

The trains are scheduled to run from 9 AM – 9 PM at Station 45 every day til January 7.

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City firefighter Jason Turner at the controls of the Station 45 Train Garden. (Anthony C. Hayes)

“We’re not necessarily modelers,” explained Capt. Jason Turner, a twenty-year veteran of the department. “What we do here is based on tradition, and firefighters love tradition.

“We actually sit down in August and have a little luncheon with the firefighters who are interested in working on the garden, and we start throwing out ideas. Basically, those ideas come from current events, movies or other recommendations.

“One of the big recommendations this year was a scavenger hunt, so we’ve included a scavenger hunt for the kids. But we like things that are up and coming. Sharknado, for example – we’re up to Sharknado 5 now. Emojis are also big with the kids. And Christmas Vacation is very popular.”

Turner said the station has a very large inventory of trains and miniature buildings, but the firefighters purchase something new every year. Walking around the 12′ x 40′ display, visitors “Oooohed” at the glistening Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, smiled approvingly at the model leg lamp from A Christmas Story and laughed out loud at several spun-cotton waterspouts filled with sharks.

“This year we bought the Christmas Vacation set because Department 56 (a model manufacturer) came out with the collection. All of those structures are new – and they are expensive. But the donations come in, and we use them to buy new stuff. Every year we try to put new scenes all around the garden.”

Do they ever repeat displays?

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

A fire display in the Station 45 Train Garden. (Anthony C. Hayes)

“Yes, though this year everything is new. We had a fire scene up for several years that was put together by one of the guys who had worked on this display for fourteen years. When he retired, we left it up as a bit of an homage. But in the five years I’ve been stationed here, our workforce has gone through a number of changes. The majority of men and women stationed here are new members. They bring fresh ideas, so we like to think the displays just keep getting better.”

Turner said the majority of the costs for construction and display are covered by Baltimore City. But he added that 100% of the donations go toward purchasing new items.

“We’ve saved money over the years by reusing the base structure. Building that is a large undertaking, so we’ve got to put money aside to prepare for the next base structure. But generally speaking, about two thousand dollars goes into this project every year. A few of these model houses alone cost over six hundred dollars, so it’s an expensive hobby.”

Spotting a few classic pieces in the garden, we asked if the company ever receivers material donations?

“If you look over there, beside our engine, you will see a bunch of boxes. A guy pulled up in a van last week and donated the entire lot. His grandfather had passed away, and he had all of those boxes of trains in his basement. We haven’t been able to go through them yet, but we keep things like that. We’ve got trains in our collection that are over sixty years old.

“We also have a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and a merry-go-round that some of the firefighters built 30-40 years ago. We don’t like to run them too much, because we don’t want to ruin them, but just seeing them is neat – knowing that our guys hand-built them back then. Nowadays, firefighters have to be jacks-of-all-trades. We’re so busy with other service demands that we don’t have time for that kind of craft.”

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Capt. Jason Turner adjusts the wheels on a model train engine at the Station 45 Train Garden. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Turner said only one other firehouse in Baltimore City (Station 41 on Conkling Street) has a train garden, but it has limited hours and is manned by the Highlandtown Exchange.

“This is the only train garden in Baltimore City run exclusively by firefighters, and it’s the men and women assigned to this house that make it happen.”

Having answered the who, what, where and how of the sixty-plus-year-old tradition, we wanted to ask Turner “why”. But we were interrupted by two wide-eyed children who asked if they could walk around the display again.

The kids had missed a few items on the scavenger hunt and wanted a second look.

“What did you miss?” asked Turner.

The kids pointed to a couple of items on the list.

“Oh, they’re there,” said Turner. “You’ve just got to look a little harder.”

Turner then waved the excited children and their smiling parents past the exit ropes for another leisurely turn around the train garden.

“If you want to know why we do this,” concluded Turner, “I think you just got your answer.”

* * * * *

The Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden literally runs now – January 7, 2018. Hours are 9 AM – 9 PM. The station is located in Baltimore City’s Mt. Washington neighborhood at 2700 Glen Avenue, 21215. The number at the station is 410-396-0171.  Enjoy the following photos of the Station 45 Train Garden by staff reporter Anthony C. Hayes.

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 engine. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)

Baltimore City Fire Department Station 45 Train Garden 2017. (credit Anthony C. Hayes)


About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at the Washington Herald, and Voice of Baltimore, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, SmartCEO, Magic Octopus Magazine, Destination Maryland, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. Contact the author.
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