The fascination with Maryland train gardens explained

In Maryland, summer is for crabs, fall is for the Ravens and spring is for lacrosse. But the holidays are reserved for trains.

The model train hobby is on full display in Maryland come December. Train gardens become a huge draw for malls and museums. There are upward of 70 detailed train gardens in Maryland including at the Dundalk Volunteer Fire station in Baltimore County and the Jarrettsville Train Garden in Harford County.

Check out full list on Grandpa's Holiday Train Garden Page for 2013 .

The fascination with train gardens in Maryland makes sense, given Baltimore is home to the birth of the American rail system, preserved at the B&O Railroad Museum.

Dave Shackelford, chief curator of the B&O Railroad Museum, said the hobby grew from Baltimore's immigrant population, specifically those from Germany.

It was traditional to set up figurine Nativity sets around the tree at Christmas time. But as Baltimore factories churned rail car after rail car, scale models became more common.

"It just kind of expanded," Shackelford said. "Then of course in the 20th century when toy trains really started to become popular it was just a wonderful addition to add on."

The B&O museum will feature different train garden exhibitors every weekend in December. Some of the displays are so detailed that crafters will work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to set up the tracks, figurines, lights, and switches.

"It's generational," Courtney Wilson, executive director of the museum, said.

The train gardens alone are expected to draw an extra 400 to 500 people to the B&O Museum in Ellicott City, which this year features an all-Lego display.

But no two train gardens are the same, aside from the Lionel train circumnavigating a Christmas tree.

So what makes a superb train garden?

"Sights, sounds, little people, lights, great buildings, some people recreate a scene that is real, a small hometown or a city, others create a fantasy scene that kids dream of," Wilson said.

The Shops at Kenilworth have mastered the fantasy display, crafting a world where baseball and football season coincide, where Spiderman keeps a watchful eye from the rooftops and Harry Potter searches for Snitches in the sky.

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