This will be the last Christmas train layout for Chuck Harris
His mailbox says, “Train guy.”
A circus, a military parade, drive-in, a golf course, a used car lot, a barnyard and even fireworks – all surrounded by 24 toy trains traveling on 892 feet of track – fill his front yard and garage.
About 5,000 people come every Christmas to see Chuck Harris’ trains set and figurines, but Harris says this is the last year he will be setting up his trains at Christmas.
From now on it will be Christmas in September so the weather won’t take it’s toll on both Harris and his trains.
“The weather is too bad. I get shorts in the wiring. the trains won’t run. There is ice on the track. I fight it all the time,” Harris said.
After 50 years of opening his home to strangers at the holidays, the train display has become a part of Christmas tradition for his family, he said.
“That’s why I hate to take it away from people at Christmas time, but I’ve got to, it’s just too cold,” he said.
But getting the word out to all the people who look forward to the display every Christmas might be difficult.
In just the time this interview took, many people drove by to look at the sign out front that announces when Harris will open for business.
One person yelled out the window to Harris, “I was hoping you were going to do it again this year. It looks great!”
n History. That’s one of the reasons Harris keeps doing it every year, he said.
“(I like) seeing kids come and seeing their eyes light up. Adults come in and say, ‘Oh, I remember when I had that.'” Harris said.
There’s a lot of history in his display, he said. He’s been collecting the trains, cars, figurines and building models since he was a child, so some thing are not made anymore and considered antiques.
For instance, the buildings in the past were made from paste board and cardboard, but now they are only made out of plastic or ceramic.
He also has people and animal figurines and cars made out of metal instead of plastic.
He pointed to a set of five cars.
“In 1955, I was offered $1,000 for those five cars,” he said. “Who knows how much they are worth today?”
n New figurines. Harris has new items this year. He has a replica of the Ronald McDonald House in Reno. Harris said, as a part of the Elks, he visits it often when the club delivers food to the shelter.
Other new items are a replica of the Lakeside Inn and the Minden Inn.
Local landmarks Harris has had for years include Sharkey’s, the sheriff’s station and the CVIC Hall.
“People like to see things the recognize,” he said.
n Donations. The kids will also get a chance to visit Santa Friday and Saturday nights, Harris said, and receive a candy cane in the deal.
People are encouraged to bring canned food that Harris, as part of the Elks, donates to the Carson Valley Community Food Closets. A $1 donation will enter you in the Dec. 25 drawing for an electric Rail King or a battery-operated Silverado Express toy train.
Harris will open his doors tonight, weather permitting.
The trains will be available for viewing through Dec. 25, 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
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