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  Valley Auto's Lionel train layout - 2004 
More pictures!   1997   2003     2005    2006

Since about 1980, Valley Auto Supply on 9th Avenue in Forsyth has had a Lionel train layout at Christmastime. This continues a tradition started by my grandfather, Glen Blakesley, who would have a small train running around the Christmas tree at his business, Blakesley's Cigar Store. (Blakesley's was located in the building now occupied by State Farm Insurance.)

After Glen retired, my dad and I had the idea of setting up the same train at Valley Auto. This led to our getting my model trains out of storage, where they'd been sitting for at least 15 or 20 years. We filled the center of the layout with store merchandise.

In 2000, I got married and my wife, Lynn, encouraged us create a Christmas scene. So we started collecting buildings, people, and other props, and Lynn got into the act by arranging all of the new goodies on the layout. We've continued to add to the collection every year. The train which ran around the tree at Blakesley's is still in our collection, still runs perfectly and makes an occasional appearance on the layout.

Our train layout started in the early 1980s on two sheets of plywood. At first, we used old Lionel track and antique train equipment, but after accidentally discovering an issue of CLASSIC TOY TRAINS magazine, I realized you could still buy Lionel trains, track and all the various accessories. So we've added a few pieces to the layout every year since then.

At first, we stacked plastic totes under the tabletop to raise it off the floor, but around 1990, Ray Deering decided we needed a more stable environment for the trains to run in, and built a semi-permanent layout -- a nice solid table, that could be taken apart for storage once the holidays were over.

The semi-permanent layout covered four sheets of plywood at first. Then we added another half-sheet and ran with that setup for about 10 years. In 2003, we moved the layout to its current location across the front of the store, and we purchased all new track and switches to accommodate the shape of the new table.

We added this farm scene in 2004. The layout also contains over 200 trees, a few of which are visible in this shot.

We added a small "industrial" area to the layout this year. The crane is the oldest item in our collection -- it dates from before World War II. 

This area of the layout is still in the early stages. We plan to add more industrial items as time goes on.

Another view of the industrial area. The mountain in the background was actually constructed out of five smaller mountains, and is made out of styrofoam. The red brick building on the left, as well as the Carquest billboard, were scratchbuilt by Ray Deering.

We have about 60 freight cars in our collection, which by train-collector standards is a tiny amount. (Lionel has produced thousands of different cars over the years.) The oldest cars we have are from the late 1950s, and we add a few new cars to the collection every year. Most of the cars that run on our store layout are from the last 10 years or so.

Our downtown area includes a scale model of the Roxy Theatre which is accurate right down to the chimney on the roof and the back doors. The service station located next door to the theatre is a scale model as well (not visible in this picture), and includes scale-sized Texaco gas pumps.  All of these buildings were scratchbuilt by Ray Deering.

Contrary to popular belief, the other buildings are not replicas of actual Forsyth buildings but they are similar in style to actual buildings.

The engine shown here is one of our newest Lionel engines, a Northern Pacific 4-8-8-4 Challenger. Engines just like this used to pass through Forsyth every day.