This year I attended both of New York City’s prominent holiday train shows, in New York Botanical Garden and Grand Central Terminal. I plan on doing a feature on the NYBG show when it opens again in the fall (it runs from November to mid-January) but this is your last weekend [writing this on 2/20/16] to catch the layout at the Transit Museum store in Grand Central Terminal. While the NYBG show presents Lionel model trains running past sometimes obscure NYC and suburban buildings and landmarks on a vast layout occupying two separate rooms, the Terminal show is more compact, on a 14-foot long layout, and features trains as well as NYC elevateds running past big city scenes, smaller scenes representing neighborhoods and suburbia, as well as a mountain and the North Pole, where Santa toils all year working on model trains, Barbies and other kiddie gifts (according to legend, of course).
I have had an attraction to model trains since my youth, but also the accompanying plastic cars, trees, houses, lampposts, etc that make up any comprehensive model railroad layout. As a kid, I had two or three N-scale (at 9MM one of the smaller commercially available model railroad scales) mounted on a table in my bedroom. Though we had a canvas cloth to cover it when not in use, dust was always a problem for us and we had to do a lot of vacuuming to permit the trains to run every time. (Professional model railroaders no doubt have better ways of conquering dust.) Both times we set up a layout, we later needed the table for something, and the trains would be packed in boxes and sent to our apartment house basement, where various tenants had set up individual spaces. Each time, the neighborhood youth appropriated our trains for community use.
Each winter, a professional model railroading association, the Bay Ridge Model Railroad Club, would mount vast layout in the basement of an apartment building on Marine Avenue and Oliver Street in Bay Ridge. I remember reading that they were still doing this just a few years ago but I do not know if they have exhibited the past couple of years.