Great Trains Holiday Exhibit returns for 18th year

Bryan Haeffele photos
The Great Trains Holiday Exhibit has returned to the Wilton Historical Society for an 18th year of smiles, wonderment and relived childhood memories.

The historic 18th- and 19th-Century buildings on the historical society’s 224 Danbury Road campus have been transformed into a train lover’s delight, featuring eight different train layouts winding through tiny towns with various kinds of buildings, tunnels and two working Ferris wheels.

The historical society receives at least five donations of train sets each year, which has allowed for the substantial expansion of the exhibit. This year there are 15 separate running trains that cover eight tables in three galleries.

The interactive exhibition also features nearly 20 buttons that activate lights, bells, whistles, a barrel loader, a sawmill and other items, and a special room for youngsters with Thomas the Tank Engine and Brio sets.

A group of engineers who helped build the exhibit are also present to answer any questions and engage in “train talk” with visitors.

“When folks see the exhibit for the first time, ‘Wow’ is usually the first thing out of their mouths,” said volunteer and former Wilton resident Steve Desloge.

“The exhibit is really indescribable. One of the most consistent comments from visitors is how extensive it is.”

Desloge said several changes have been made to this year’s exhibition.

“We have added an extra Brio set for the toddlers, and moved our large Lego train set to a marquis position in the main gallery,” he said.

“We have also added a large meandering outside layout, and the kids love to follow the train all around the track.”

Over the past two years, the exhibition has drawn about 3,000 people annually, said Desloge.

This year’s exhibition, which opened Nov. 25, seems to be on track to do the same, with more than 2,000 visitors as of Dec. 21.

Desloge said the exhibition attracts “tons of kids with their parents and grandparents,” as well as “train aficionados of all ages.”

“Many visitors come back year after year, and many come more than once during the exhibit,” he said.

“They come to get into the spirit of the holidays, to see a very interactive exhibit and to smile, wander and wonder — and in many cases, to relive their childhood.”

The exhibition will be accessible on the following days and times:

  • Saturday, Dec. 31, from 10 to 3.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 4, to Saturday, Jan. 7, from 10 to 4.

  • Sunday, Jan. 8, from noon to 4.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 11, to Saturday, Jan. 14, from 10 to 4.

  • Sunday, Jan. 15, and Monday, Jan. 16, from noon to 4.

“This is an exhibit that simply should not be missed and is full of many happy surprises that make you smile,” said Desloge.

“If you want to experience the thrill of being a kid — no matter how old you are — we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.”

Admission is free for all children and historical society members. There is a $10 fee for adults who are non-members.

Information:, 203-762-7257.