By Joe Morreale
The Town of Babylon Historical Society showcased local history through an expansive model train display at the Old Town Hall on Main Street in December. Between 5,000 and 6,000 residents visited the interactive exhibit inspired by community landmarks and local history, according to Babylon Town historian Mary Cascone.
“This is something for all ages. It’s great for young children that want to press a button and see something happen,” Cascone said. “We have people that just come in and say, ‘Oh my goodness, I haven’t seen that building in a long time,’ and it sparks a conversation, or we have people who admire models.”
The 240-square-foot setup features new models each year based on local historical sites. The layout has been displayed in Babylon each winter holiday season since 2010, and the volunteers work their hardest to bring a unique product to the community each December, though they work throughout the year to complete the project.
“We try to customize the buildings as much as we can,” said Jason Cascone, a community volunteer and Mary’s husband. “We try to get as close to a representation as possible with the materials that we have.”
Jason has been a model train enthusiast since he was 10 years old. A three-dimensional printer has enabled him to level up his model-making skills in the last five years. “It’s a constant learning process and going back to the things you’ve done and the tons of mistakes that you make in this entire process,” he said.
Assembling the display itself begins in October. “It starts by having the town carpenters set up the tables just before Halloween. Then our volunteers, who are railroad and hobby enthusiasts, lay out the track, and we actually do the layout around the track design,” Mary said. “Then for six weeks, nights and weekends, they come and they start wiring everything. The track has to be electrified for the trains to move on.”
Jason added, “It takes a lot of research to understand what things looked like and be able to go into the software and be able to model it in a way that can be printed and then have the materials to do the print, assemble it, then decorate it with the things that would make it look like the actual building that it was.”
“With 3D printing, we’ve been able to do a whole lot more. Of course, that takes a little bit of skill and training to use the software and do the design, as well as having the actual equipment to do it,” he continued. “We can also mix different materials to create a building. In the beginning of this endeavor, we were taking different kits and tried to put those together. They call that kit bashing.”
The displays comprise hundreds of tiny figurines representing the people who have called Babylon home over the years. “We find that people will visit it multiple times and see something different every time they go around,” Mary said.
“It’s great for those kids from two to 92 because there is a little something for everyone,” she noted.