BANGOR – This time of year, it’s not visions of sugarplums that dance in Bill Soule’s head. It’s pictures of trains, the model trains he’ll keep running in a store window for much of the holiday season beginning Saturday in downtown Bangor.
Wearing the striped overalls and rakish cap of a railroad man, Soule will oversee the display of the Eastern Maine Model Railroad Club, a highlight of this year’s holiday window-decorating project sponsored by Bangor Center Corp. Eighteen groups are decorating windows on Main, Central and Columbia streets, and in West Market Square.
Saturday will kick off the downtown holiday celebrations, said Sally Burgess, an economic development officer for the city.
The lighting ceremony in Kenduskeag Mall will begin at 4:15 p.m., courtesy of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. in memory of Brian Flynn.
The annual parade has moved to 4:30 p.m. The Rotary Club of Bangor will produce the event, with Adelphia as corporate sponsor.
Closing out the day will be the lighting of the community tree at 6:30 p.m. in West Market Square.
Burgess is excited about the addition of the train display to the window decorating.
“Train buffs will be especially interested in the display produced by the Eastern Maine Model Railroad Club at 57 Main Street,” she said. “The train schedule will be posted, and the trains will run on time. There also will be windows that appeal to history buffs, sentimental souls and the young at heart.
“Everybody loves a dynamic display,” Burgess said, “things that move and provoke nostalgia.”
The railroad club was organized 24 years ago, a few years before Soule joined the group. He’s been involved in model railroading for several decades.
“I’m the classic who started out with a Lionel train under the Christmas tree when I was 5 or 6,” said the retired University of Maine professor.
There are several sizes of model trains, he explained. Two trains that will be running in the display are HO gauge, a scale that amounts to 3.5 millimeters to the foot.
“It’s a bizarre mixture of the English and metric system,” Soule said. “Among serious modelers, it’s the most common gauge.” It’s also the gauge for the custom-decorated freight cars the club sells to support its activities.
The window display also will have a larger G-gauge train, part of an exhibit built by fellow member Lloyd Day.
Many people are familiar with G-gauge, as well, Soule said. Leith Wadleigh owns a G-gauge train that operates inside Governor’s Restaurant in Bangor.
Another part of the window exhibit on Main Street will be a life-size mural depicting a portion of a Mikado-type steam locomotive, based on a Maine Central Railroad train.
Soule, who is known as the “Train Doctor” for his interest in the electrical aspects of model trains, and for his knack for repairing them, has also done railroad displays at the Maine Center for the Arts and the Bangor Historical Society.
The small size of models helps make for their fascination, he believes. “When they’re real,” and full size, he said, “they’re just ponderous. It’s like thinking of a house or bridge moving under its own power.”
The Eastern Maine Model Railroad Club holds meetings in its East Orland headquarters and welcomes new members, Soule said.
In addition to the display by the railroad club, the window decorating project will include efforts by Adelphia, Anthem, the Bangor Daily News, the Bangor Historical Society, the Bangor State Fair, Keeping Bangor Beautiful, Republic Parking System, Tate-Fitch PA, the Thomas Hatch Block, WABI-TV, WLBZ-TV, WVII-TV, Woodward and Curran, and four city departments: fire department, police department, planning, and parks and recreation.
Trees for the program were provided by Bangor Hardware and Bangor Center Corp.
It’s only the second year for the decorating program, Burgess said, but already the project is growing in popularity.
“This year, people called, wanting to do windows,” she said.
For information about the window decorating project, call Sally Burgess at 945-4400,Ext. 409. For information on the Eastern Maine Model Railroad Club, contact Bill Soule at 866-4060, or check the Web site at http://emmrc.freeyellow.com.