Two beloved traditions are returning to officially kick off the Christmas season in Porterville the day after Thanksgiving.

The annual model train show is returning to the Porterville Historical Museum, with the first day of the exhibit being featured on Friday, November 26. Those in the area can take in the impressive display of model trains at the museum during the day and then head to the 42nd annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting that will be held later that night.

While the 75-foot tall Ross Gardner Christmas Tree at City Hall was lit last year for the holidays, no ceremony was held. But ther ceremony will return at Centennial Park, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, November 26.

Of course Friday, November 26 won't be the only day in which those in the area can take in the model train show. The train show will be featured throughout the holiday season on Saturday, November 27, and December 3 and 4, 10 and 11, 17 and 18 and Tuesday through Friday, December 20-23 and Tuesday through Saturday, December 27-31.

On all those days the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving those who come by plenty of time to enjoy the model trains — and the numerous accessories that come with them.

The model train show is considered the best model train show in Tulare County. Of course it's fitting the model train show is held at the museum since the museum is the home of a Southern Pacific Railroad terminal.

The Underwater Train Society began show model trains at the museum in the early 1980s. Under the leadership of Dr. Don Stover the model train show has grown into the impressive exhibit it is today.

On Wednesday, Frank Spina and Rich Stover (no relation) were setting up the model train exhibit. There could be up to 30 model trains running at one time on various tracks in two separate rooms while the exhibit is open. “It gets pretty noisy,” Spina said. “The kids love it.”

And of course admission to the model train show for children is free while admission is $8 for adults.

The main display of the exhibit in the main room consists of an entire village which is really a small community that includes moving ice skaters on an ice skating rink, Santa and his sleigh and a train station. There's also the Albert and Judy Holloway Expressway that goes around the entire room that features the Napa Valley wine train.

Much of the displays include vintage trains and accessories from the 1950s and early 1960s. American Flyer and Lionel were competitors when it came to the model train industry and there are displays for both at the exhibit.

The American Flyer exhibit includes a sawmill and what Spina said was probably the most popular and successful accessory for American Flyer, the oil drum loader from the early 1950s.

There's also a stockyard with moving cattle and a train station complete with the conductor saying “All Aboard.”

How is the conductor's voice done? With a 78RPM record hanging from the wall. “It's 1950s technology,” Spina said. The American Flyer exhibit is a vintage American Flyer 1950s layout.

The exhibit also includes a coal loader and “Sam The Semaphone Man,” who uses a lantern to communicate with those operating the trains. An explanation of how Sam The Semaphone Man communicates with his lantern is also included with the display.

There's also a display in which those taking in the exhibit can go to the carnival. And there are more displays in a separate room, including an exhibit for the U.S. Military.

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There ceremony again will feature musical performances, an inspirational message, caroling and refreshments. Donations will also be collected for a canned food drive and for Toys For Tots. And of course the tree will be lit.

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