By COLBY DENTON
A massive Lionel train set is bringing joy to Clevelanders young and old at the Baynes family household.Doug and Annie Baynes are residents of Cleveland who have a month-specific hobby, Christmas. …
A massive Lionel train set is bringing joy to Clevelanders young and old at the Baynes family household.
Doug and Annie Baynes are residents of Cleveland who have a month-specific hobby, Christmas. For Doug, this hobby is model railroading, more specifically involving Lionel train sets.
"There is a book I read which stated, 'We are once a man, but twice a child,' so don't let anyone kid you. Your dad may be 50 years old, but at Christmas, we are all 12-year-old boys," Baynes said.
He explains that since they were married, Annie would always without fail ask him what he wanted for Christmas each year. Receiving everything from radio-controlled helicopters to model cars, Baynes told his wife nearly 10 years ago that he wanted a Lionel train like the one he had when he was younger (and which he still owns).
An even 60 years ago, Baynes' father gave him a Lionel train set for Christmas. He still has that same set on display beside his new additions.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Baynes moved to this community in 2011, in order to take care of his mother.
Baynes, who worked in aviation for 20 years, has moved around to different states all his life.
"I was in the Air Force for six years. Then, when I got out, Lockheed Aircraft hired me because they were looking for ex-crew chiefs. They had sold 28 C-130 aircrafts to Saudi Arabia, so I moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from 1977 to 1980 as a field service representative for the C-130 program.
He later worked as a private contractor in Iraq from 2007-2011. Upon leaving Iraq, East Tennessee was his next destination.
Moving to Tennessee caused Baynes to downsize his train hobby. He states how he used to have five trains set up at once, but now only has room for three.
"I started about seven years ago with just a single layout, but it has metamorphosed into what you now see," Baynes states as he gestures to his three sets.
Approaching the children at their church, Peerless Road Church of God, the Baynes family started a fun, local tradition.
"I got the idea last year to print out tickets just like the movie, 'The Polar Express,' which one of my trains is modeled after. I hand them out to the neighborhood and church kids and they get to come over at their 'ticket time,'" Baynes explained.
Guests are treated to a screening of "The Polar Express" while they admire and play with Baynes's trains. They also get Christmas cookies, punch and hot cocoa just like in the film.
Christmas has always played a significant role in the their lives, Baynes explains.
"I'm sure you are familiar with the movie, 'A Christmas Story' with the 'Red Ryder' BB gun? I was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and [a good portion] of the movie is filmed in the store 'Higbee's.' When I was a boy growing up in the '50s and '60s, I would go to that store, and it looked exactly like it does in the movie," he said. "My mother actually has a picture of me going down the same slide in 'Higbee's' that Ralphie goes down in the movie."
Children typically come to Baynes before his Lionels are even set up.
He explained, "I had two neighborhood kids come knocking on my door at the start of December asking if my train set was up yet!"
Trains are not the only thing in abundance in the home, as Baynes also has entire Christmas village setup featuring famous Christmas movies from Hollywood such as "Elf," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "A Christmas Story" and "Christmas Vacation."
"We started the tradition with our kids of writing letters to Santa, and even though they are grown now, we still continue that tradition each year," Baynes said.
Christmas trees are also plentiful. Annie decorates their two trees with varying ornaments from their travels, including Grand Tetons National Park, Acadia National Park, Yellowstone National Park and much more.
She has also amassed a significant collection of Santas from Germany.
"We have these small Christmas houses that you see in the Christmas villages, and I have 26 of them; so, I can easily rotate them every year and never have the same collection of houses," Baynes said.
Many of Baynes' train engines and cars are special and exclusive. He explains how some of them were one of only a few hundred ever made, or were specially painted or designed.
Two closets are filled with decorations, and even they can hardly contain the ever-growing collection.
Baynes states that all residents are welcome up through Christmas, and admission is free.
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