The Boothbay Railway Village museum is celebrating the holidays in more ways than ever before this year. With a keen eye on tradition, the activities are both on the museum’s campus in Boothbay and in partnership with L.L. Bean and its Northern Lights celebration in Freeport.
North Pole Express
On Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17, and 23, the Boothbay Railway Village will run the North Pole Express. Departures will be at 11 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:15 p.m., 2 p.m., and 2:45 p.m. each day. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.
During the North Pole Express, families will take a heated steam-train ride to meet Santa Claus, and then enjoy homemade cookies and hot cocoa, see a large model train and village, make a vintage-inspired ornament to take home, and listen to a reading of “The Night Before Christmas.”
The North Pole Express is one of the signature events of the Boothbay Festival of Lights. This festival runs through Sunday, Dec. 31. For more information about area dining, shopping, and lodging, as well as a complete calendar of events that will add sparkle to the holidays, go to boothbaylights.com.
Tickets for the North Pole Express are available in advance through railwayvillage.org or at the door. Standard tickets are $15 and First Class tickets are $20 for attendees age 3 years and older. Museum members receive a $4 discount per ticket only on standard tickets (sorry — no discounts on First Class). When ordering tickets online, remember that children under 3 years old do not need a ticket.
Model train village at L.L. Bean’s Northern Lights celebration
For the second year, the volunteers of Boothbay Railway Village have designed and constructed a model train village for the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. The layout is located on the second floor, inside the children’s department, and will be operating from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through New Year’s Day.
The layout highlights the historic connection between the museum and L.L. Bean. Museum volunteer George Barrett spent hundreds of hours constructing an exact scale model of Freeport Station for the installation. It also includes a model owned by the retailer of its original store/manufacturing facility. Freeport Station and the railroad service was vital to L.L. Bean’s success in the first half of the 20th century. In 1964, the station was moved to Boothbay and was the very first building on the Boothbay Railway Village museum’s campus.
The display is also just plain fun, with everything from an operating carousel to skiers and snowboarders, and even a family of bears. A full schedule of the Northern Lights celebration activities can be found on the L.L. Bean website.
‘Candlelight & Cocktails on the Rails’
“Candlelight & Cocktails on the Rails” is a brand-new event perfect for a date night or a girlfriend’s night out, with a vintage twist. Step back to a simpler time when the soft glow of candles and lanterns lit the villages and towns all along the coast of Maine at the holidays. A coal fire will be burning in the stove inside Freeport Station when one arrives, and traditional treats will be served, including warm spiced wine, spiked eggnog, roasted chestnuts, mini mince pies, and more.
See the museum’s village simply illuminated and dressed in fresh garlands and greens while traveling aboard a steam-heated vintage coach lit with the warm glow of oil lamps and lanterns. Should weather permit, merrymakers can take a walk through the lower campus exhibits, including Harrington House, which will be decked out in 1940s style, including a Lionel train operating beneath the home’s tree loaded with Shiny Brite ornaments, tinsel, and Noma bubble lights. The 1847 Boothbay Town Hall will also be open for guests to view the model railroad and Christmas village display. A bonfire will provide a warming station while one waits for a Model T ride as well.
The evening includes refreshments, a 15-minute steam train ride, a short Model T ride (weather permitting), and visits to Harrington House and the 1847 Boothbay Town Hall (bundle up for this part!).
One can upgrade one’s ticket to First Class and enjoy the Victorian splendor of the restored Franklin & Megantic Coach No. 2. The coach was originally built in 1903 and it embodies the typical travel of the era with its plush walkover seats and mahogany interior.
Standard tickets are $20; First Class, $25. Museum members receive a $4 discount per ticket only on standard tickets. There is a choice of Saturday, Dec. 9 or Saturday, Dec. 16. Train departures are at 6 p.m. each night. The museum may add later departures if demand exceeds capacity on the first train.
For more information about any of the Boothbay Railway Village’s holiday celebrations, call 633-4727 or go to railwayvillage.org. The Boothbay Railway Village is located at 586 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay.