21 Dec
Fri / 2018

Inside the MFAH
All Aboard the Texas-Inspired Train Display at Christmas Village

Every year, Christmas Village spreads holiday cheer with dazzling lights and festive activities throughout Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. One of the most popular aspects is the handcrafted model train set, which circles the 15-foot-tall Christmas tree inside the tent and now includes nods to Texas architecture and iconic art installations.

Guests will discover Texas-inspired updates to the train display constructed by Steve Pine, senior conservator of decorative arts, and Trevor Boyd, associate conservator of decorative arts, along with associate registrar John Obsta and other Museum staff members. I spoke with Pine and Boyd about what guests can expect to find under the tree at Christmas Village, which continues through January 5.

How did you choose the new landscape and other features?
Steve Pine & Trevor Boyd:
Originally, the display was mostly decorated with a generous donation of houses, figures, and accessories by the manufacturer Department 56. The pieces evoked classic Christmas imagery, but we wondered if we could make the set reflect what Christmas looks like in Texas.

Last year, we began incorporating imagery of Texas and the Southwest by making the replica of the 1927 Sugar Land Rail Depot. The area next to the train tunnel didn’t have as much snow, but rather rocks, sand, and Southwest architecture.

This year we decided to extend that theme further with imagery of West Texas. We think the diversity of art and cultural installations will appeal to children and art-loving adults alike. Imagine that the train is coming down from the snowy maintains and out into Texas’s rolling hills and dusty plains!

Among the additions to this year’s Christmas Village at Bayou Bend are Texas-inspired updates to the model train set, handcrafted by conservators Steve Pine and Trevor Boyd, with the help of other MFAH staff members.
One of this year’s additions to the model train set is associate registrar John Obsta’s pint-sized replica of the Prada Marfa art installation

How did you use your role in the conservation department to craft the model train display?
SP & TB: In previous years, work for the train set had to be shuttled between our homes, a temporary lab, and an off-site storage warehouse. This year, with the new Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, we could set up in a number of spaces, including a fully outfitted woodshop, under one roof.

Do you have a favorite part of the new display?
I like the Cadillac Ranch section. I think the cars’ colorful irreverence really captures a special quality of Texas. I can’t take credit for crushing and airbrushing the graffiti on the cars, but I did get to cut their hoods off on the band saw and set them up for display. It’s probably the first time in my museum career I have been tasked with breaking things before they went out for exhibition!

One of this year’s additions to the model train set is a pint-sized replica of the Prada Marfa art installation.
The mini Cadillac Ranch is modeled on Ant Farm’s public art installation in Amarillo.

See the train up close when you visit Christmas Village at Bayou Bend, which continues through January 5! Learn more and get tickets.

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