So you’ve got your polystyrene base constructed and carved. Your Department 56 village buildings and accessories are set in place. The place looks like a ghost town. It’s dead.
Both novices and experts often forget that animation must be a critical part of village construction. Visit any town or small city at 2:00 a.m. and you’ll get that same eerie feeling; with no hustle, bustle, or activity on the streets, the place will feel abandoned. A Department 56 village is no different. Just having people on the city sidewalks won’t bring the city to life; only light and animation can do that.
Recently, we renovated our Snow Village display to reflect this idea. In addition to some of the other changes we made, we added a working O-gauge train to the mix. In addition to the animation and movement the train brings to the table, it also has several sound features which add life to the display. And, of course, incorporating the train and track adds other elements of interest to the display.
Check out the bridge carved right out of polystyrene over the ravine in photo #1. You can buy a bridge directly from companies like Mike’s Train House (MTH) to add an extra level of realism, but in a pinch you can easily do something simple with the foam and still get a neat effect.
In photo #2, you can see the train passing into the tunnel under the middle part of the display. For this part of the layout, we built a wooden platform for the tallest portion of the display, which has two effects: first, it saves on polystyrene foam. Second, we included ball-bearing drawer slides, which means that we can slide the entire top shelf of the display out for maintenance. In this particular shot, you can see that we purchased the tunnel fascia from MTH. Like the bridge before it, however, you could easily carve the tunnel openings out of foam yourself.
Photo 3 is a face-on of the train coming round the bend near our highway. In this shot you can see the scale of the train in comparison to the Department 56 porcelain accessories. For this village, we chose to incorporate the O-gauge train, which scales slightly small to the Snow Village, but it very appropriate for other villages like North Pole or Alpine–we even have plans to incorporate an electric trolley into our Christmas in the City display. For Snow Village you could certainly use a gauge like the Lionel Tinplate (also offered by MTH), but such a train has a much larger turning radius. We recommend our customers buy the MTH ready-to-run sets because of the O-31 turning radius, which makes the train easier to incorporate into a smaller display in your home.