When most people think of cigar boxes they don’t think of anything near this nice. But cigars today often come in boxes of very fine woodwork that make beautiful homes for valuables of all types – beyond the cigars they originally carried. Cigar stores charge varying prices for the empty boxes, but if you are friendly, ask nicely, and show an interest they will hold the nice one for you and you won’t have to pay too much. If you are good regular customer you might not have to pay anything at all! (Just saying …)
So, for the small Christmas set I put together for a friend I used a limited edition Camacho cigar box. Now this is one that is not going to be easy to find, but there are many others out there. The only modifications I made to this box were the two clasps on the front (purchased from Michael’s Crafts for $4) and some small pieces of felt for feet underneath and in the clasp area to keep the lid closed a little tighter. Total price for the box including all modifications, um, yep, between $4 and $5.
I had all the various train components from being a pack-rat over the years. All I had to do was sort through boxes and put it all together and make sure it all worked together. Oh, and a bit of cleaning and dusting. The Hornby locomotives and three cars and cars are wrapped in soft cloth cut from a t-shirt. The oval of track and transformer are from a Bachmann set.
The best thing about this? It made some friend very happy over over Christmas. It doesn’t hurt that the mother and grandmother are both English born and bread. Yes, that is why the British OO outline locos and cars. The young daughters in the family were thrilled. Who said girls don’t like trains? And with it all packaged up in a very nice box, it will make for a fun and attractive Christmas tradition.
Top Gear’s James May presented a program about his Top Toys, and this is the segment on the number 1 toy – the train set. We also get a glimpse of Pete Waterman’s O Gauge layout. This all too brief video gives a nice introduction to the Hornby and Triang model railways of the UK as well as the hobby of train collecting. Train collecting is much different from building model railroads because the purest collector never runs his trains. In fact, in their best case scenario the toys are never even removed from the box.
I have no idea why, but there is something about the holiday season that always makes me wistful to be in London. The really odd thing is that I have only been there once and that was in the Spring, so I have absolutely no idea what London is actually like in December. But I want to be there none-the-less.
Maybe it is from seeing and reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol too many times. Or maybe it is my love of trains and model railways that seems to be easier to exercise this time of year. I have visions of shop windows, or at least Hamleys or Harrods, filled with toy steam trains, big dolls, and overstuffed teddy bears. By the way, if you are a toy fan and ever get the chance to visit Hamleys, you absolutely must. Floor upon floor upon floor of every type, size, and age toy you can imagine.
For now, at least, I will remain here in Charleston though. That is really not so bad seeing as the weather is mild, my family is here, and the Charleston Place Hotel downtown has a great train setup. What is more, my son is starting to show a real interest in model trains, so maybe sometime in the future we will be able to bring them out more than just the few weeks around the holidays.
Still though, it would be nice to be in London. To take the tube into the city from a nice bed and breakfast. To stroll the streets and take in the sites and sounds. And of course, to visit the toy stores.
I just wanted to pause for a moment and wish you all a Merry Christmas. One of the things I have associated with Christmas since I was a small boy is trains. I love railroads and model railways, but as with a lot of folks, that pull gets even stronger around the holidays.
So, my off way of wishing you a happy holiday is to post a couple of model train pictures. The first one above, is of the OO British train that we have around our Christmas tree at home this year. I have been collecting British engines, cars, and buildings for years from makers like Hornby, Bachmann, and Lima, but this is the first time I have actually put them out. Maybe one day I will have a full layout, but until then under the Christmas tree will have to suffice. My son the layout work and test all of my engines to find the one that ran the best and most consistently.
The second picture, below, is from the Charleston Place hotel in downtown Charleston. Every year this grand hotel, owned The Orient-Express Hotels, puts a huge display up at the base of their main staircase. This layout is always a favorite with visitors and especially children – no matter what their age. This year the layout was created by the Charleston Model Railroad Club. It is, I am guessing, twenty feet by fifteen feet and probably eight feet at its highest point. With many different engines running at the same time, all automated, it is quite an impressive display.
So there you have some of my favorites for the season. Two things that both bring joy to my family and me currently, and bring back memories of things I loved when I was a boy. I wish you and yours a joyful and memorable holiday as well.