Holiday Express returns to New-York Historical Society in time for the holiday season

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Holiday Express returns to New-York Historical Society in time for the holiday season
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection on view November 27, 2020 – February 21, 2021.

NEW YORK, NY.- A magical wonderland awaits visitors with the return of New-York Historical Society’s holiday tradition. Featuring toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection (November 27, 2020 – February 21, 2021) transports young and old alike to a bygone era. The exhibition includes a variety of toy train engines and stations dating from the turn of the 19th century to the WWII era, showcasing the evolving designs of American and European toymakers. Visitors are greeted by animations and fun facts about the toys on nearby screens, and kids will be delighted by a specially created bench inspired by a 19th-century sleigh from New-York Historical’s collection. Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Jerni Collection, acquired by New-York Historical in 2014, epitomizes a golden age of toy manufacture and transportation. Toys from the 1850s to the 1950s amused children while teaching them how clockwork, steam power, and electricity worked. Though the railroad has declined, toy trains remain popular and will continue to delight children and the young at heart for generations to come.

A returning favorite on display in Holiday Express is the Blue Comet express train, produced by American toymaker H.E. Boucher Manufacturing Co. in 1929. It was modeled on the real New Jersey Central express train, which took gamblers and vacationers from New York to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1920s and early ’30s. Boucher lavished precision detail on his locomotives and rolling stock. His insistence on authenticity was costly: Boucher’s train line did not survive the Great Depression. Also on view is a set of brightly decorated and dramatically sculpted miniature Lionel figures from 1932–36, depicting African American porters, coachmen, and cooks—accurately demonstrating the demographics of the American railway labor force prior to World War II. In the Rotunda, a modern reproduction of a classic 1935 Lionel steam locomotive train set chugs its way along the tracks.

New to this year’s display are a number of toys that have not been on view for several years, including German toymaker Märklin’s Grand Station (1904–08), the largest station the company produced prior to World War II. Few examples are known to survive. Made from embossed tin, the hand-painted station features two kerosene lamps, two working bells, and a pair of functional clocks. The inside sections reveal a richly detailed interior complete with a ticket office, waiting room, and lounges with tables, chairs, and a radiator. An expansive timeline illustrated by toys from the Jerni Collection charts history of train travel—from its origins to its golden age.

Holiday and train-themed family programs take place via Zoom throughout the exhibition’s run. On Wednesdays in December, children can learn about historical traditions associated with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa with live conversations with historical interpreters. On Tuesdays and Fridays, little ones aged 3-6 are invited to join Little New-Yorkers online for story time and crafts. Upcoming books include The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Every day during December school vacation week (December 28–January 1) Train Tales and Crafts takes place, featuring a hello song, silly movement activities, a train-themed story book reading, and a train-themed craft to do at home. Digital family guides are also available for families visiting the Museum in person, including a train-themed ‘I Spy’ scavenger hunt for trains, airplanes, animals, and more.

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