No one is really sure why trains and Christmas became associated with each other. After all, Santa Claus delivers presents via sleigh and reindeer, not train. Some say trains symbolize “coming and going,” and as such fit the season in which years come to an end and new ones begin. Perhaps it’s simpler than that; toy trains are popular gift items for children.
Either way, trains and Christmas go together like barbecue grills and Memorial Day. Many put model trains under their Christmas tree and have them circle through a tiny town. Trains were further embedded into the Christmas psyche in 2004 when the popular holiday film “The Polar Express” was released.
For the second year in a row, Danny Naimoli of Naimoli Landscaping has brought holiday trains to the basement of St. Mel School in Flushing, and he is utilizing this year’s show to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The second annual Holiday Train Show at St. Mel opened last weekend and will continue into this weekend, pleasing children of all ages.
Naimoli had been putting on the train show at the Queens Botanical Garden before moving it to St. Mel last year. His inspiration came from a similar show that is held every holiday season at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
“I think that one and this one are the only two train shows in the city,” Naimoli said.
It takes him more than a month to build the structures before he begins placing them in the basement of the school, a process that takes a week alone to complete. Among the items he built — replicas of the new World Trade Center, as well as St. Mel Church and nearby St. Luke’s Church.
This year, Naimoli added scenes from children’s fairy tales and fantasy movies including a castle from the “Lord of the Rings,” houses from “Shrek,” and nursery rhyme-inspired buildings including the home of the little old lady who lived in a shoe, Rapunzel’s tower and the Seven Dwarfs from “Snow White.”
All the flora used in the display is real and the smell of fresh pine permeates the entire room.
“It’s all natural materials,” Naimoli said.
In the corner, a train disappears into a tunnel and then comes out, riding along a makeshift viaduct over a lake, where a waterfall drains into. The dwarfs are placed at the shores of the lake.
“The theme is based on characters from childrens imaginations,” Naimoli explained.
The annual train show brought out Diane Pramberger and her three children on Saturday. The Hicksville family arrived with grandmother Eleanor Pramberger of College Point, who enjoys watching her grandchildren eye the toy trains.
“It’s exciting for them,” she said as her two older grandchildren, Thomas and Catherine Pramberger, vyed over the best viewing position for the trains crossing the Brooklyn Bridge replica.
The buildings Naimoli creates for the show are placed in storage after the show and saved until next year. The World Trade Center buildings were from last year. Naimoli also said he built replicas of the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges, but failed to finish them in time for the show.