INDIANAPOLIS—One might think visiting a train exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum would be a calm traditional museum experience, but among the realistic sounds of train horns, conversations between families and volunteer model train engineers and the overall excitement from young kids taking in the experience, Jingle Rails is a fun and stimulating experience for all of its visitors.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is showcasing the 10th year of Jingle Rails, a G-scale model holiday train exhibit featuring nine model trains. Each train winds around its own track with a different backdrop made entirely of all-natural materials.

All the backdrops, buildings and tracks are designed and created by a company called Applied Imagination, based out of Alexandria, Kentucky, which designs botanical architecture exhibits across the country. Each year, the display adds new backdrops displaying a new nationally recognized landscape.

New this year to the exhibit is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and historic Spanish Colonial missions of the Southwest, including The Alamo.

Eiteljorg staff brainstorms for new backdrop scenes each year and Applied Imagination brings them to life. This year’s depiction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track was a request from a longtime donor.

“Applied Imagination does tremendous work in creating fanciful botanical miniature reproductions of famous landmarks,” said Bryan Corbin, public relations manager for the Eiteljorg. “We are delighted at how they can take an idea and turn it into a three-dimensional creation made of all-natural woodsy materials for the model trains to ramble through and for visitors to enjoy.”

Several national parks and landmarks of the American West are depicted throughout the exhibit, including Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Golden Gate bridge and the Grand Canyon. The exhibit also showcases some local landmarks such as Lucas Oil Stadium, Monument Circle, Union Station and the Eiteljorg Museum.

“It’s intended to be kind of whimsical,” Corbin said. “It very much has a multi-generational appeal. Children obviously love trains but for adults and grandparents it can remind folks of maybe a favorite family vacation out west they went on several years ago.”

It’s not just the backdrops that have meaning. The trains themselves also represent different eras of transportation history.

Many of the trains portray actual trains around the world such as the “Train of the Stars” that used to run from Chicago to Hollywood, the Indiana Railroad Engine and the Indiana Southern railroad.

The trains are kept up and going by volunteers such as Tom Bromstrup who has been dubbed the “chief engineer.”

“When they first started to open this, they put a flyer out for people that were into model railroads if they wanted to come and volunteer and do this, so I volunteered” Bromstrup said. “Day One I was here, and not very often I’m not here. So they have basically become my babies.”

Admission to Jingle Rails is included in museum admission—$15 for adults, $13 for seniors aged 65 and over, $8 for youths between ages 5 and 17 and full-time students with an ID. Children 4 and under, IUPUI students and faculty, and members of the museum are free.

The Eiteljorg is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Throughout the month of December, the museum will be open every Monday until 8 p.m. Parking, when available, is free in the White River State Park underground parking garage. The museum will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Jingle Rails will run until Martin Luther King Day which is Jan. 20 and on that day admission will be free for everyone.

Brynna Sentel is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

React to this story:


Recommended for you