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Holiday model train display built at South Station

Posted by Your Town  December 5, 2013 04:12 PM

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Commuters rushing through South Station to catch their next train or bus home might want to slow down long enough to notice the annual holiday train display there.

“[The model] is Boston and New England through the decades,” said 51-year-old Boston native Mark Carroll, who built the project. “It ranges from the 1940s through the ‘70s and a little bit of the ‘80s.”

While train displays have been a feature of South Station during the holidays over the years, Carroll wanted to create a “New England themed” railroad display for South Station this year.

Last year, Carroll, a former graphic design professor at Bunker Hill Community College, began constructing the 500-foot New England train display with his students. It debuted to much praise.

This year, Carroll, who is no longer teaching, spent extra time to rebuild some of the models himself and add new detailed elements to the display, including snow-covered mountains, an underwater shipwreck, new interactive sounds such as train whistles, and movements that children can activate with the push of a button.

“People love to watch [the model] go up, which I was surprised at, and when it is up we get lots and lots of “thank yous,” he said.

Ted Furst, the project manager who collaborated with Carroll in designing the display, says his inspiration for the project came from identifying what characteristics New Englanders associate with New England.

“What we needed to do is come into the project thinking “New England,” said Furst. “It was taking little pieces of all different areas of New England and bringing them together.”

The model has specific sections, which are connect to that vision, including a Cape Cod waterfront community, a bustling, walkable downtown area similar to Boston, and quiet rural communities that reflect life in western Massachusetts.

The actual construction of the display within South Station takes roughly three days, both men said. Furst, however, said that they usually take their time because people enjoy watching the model being built.

“People enjoy watching Mark work on putting it together because [the construction] is like a performance in itself,” said Furst.

South Station Commuter Amanda Duke, of Upton, Mass., said that the display gives travelers coming into the city a sample of New England life.

“Given that this is South Station and that there is going to be people from around the world coming in here, I think [the display] is a great introduction to Massachusetts and the Boston area.”

In total, the display will have five running trains along 200 feet of track. including replicas of the MBTA trolleys and Commuter Rail trains. There also are 58 model buildings, each constructed by Carroll.

“Everything is so packed with detail and so many things to look at that several people missed trains,” chuckled Carroll. “I felt bad for them, but at the same time it was kind of like a victory for me.”

The display, which will open this weekend, will be in South Station for roughly five to six weeks through the holiday season for travelers to enjoy.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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