LISLE – With the bitter cold a Chicago winter brings, families may be hesitant to see nature outdoors. Instead, they can check out the Morton Arboretum's Enchanted Railroad indoor tree display, which runs Jan. 13 to Feb. 19 at its visitor center.
Mary D'Amico, special events coordinator at the arboretum, said the Enchanted Railroad features 12 miniature trains running through model tree collections that are found at the Morton Arboretum and around the world. The event started about 16 years ago, she said.
"It's great for all ages because it's very enchanted – we love that word – and magical. It kind of brings you back to being a kid," D'Amico said.
The trains are replicas of "all sorts of train cars," from Metra and Amtrak to Thomas the Tank Engine, and the train tracks are at a "kid-friendly" height of a couple feet higher than ground level, she said. The LGB Model Railroad Club of Chicago assembles and maintains the tracks, trains and interactive buttons for the Enchanted Railroad.
The roughly 100 trees in the display represent a dozen tree collections from Europe, Asia and North America, D'Amico said.
Overall attendance for the Enchanted Railroad is about 20,000 visitors, she said. To ensure the room the exhibit is in doesn't get too crowded, visitors pick up timed tickets from the visitor center information desk to space out their visits.
D'Amico's favorite thing to look for this year is a giant wooden troll, which will provide a "sneak peek" for the Morton Arboretum's Troll Hunt exhibit that will open in April and feature trolls sculpted from reclaimed wood. In the train display, the troll will be about 1 foot tall and the trees will be about 10 to 15 inches tall, she said.
She added the display also offers information about why trees are important for the environment, along with facts about railroads and prairies.
"We have many people that come, and they come back every year to see it with their kids. Even as their kids grow up, they still come back to see it," D'Amico said.
If you go
WHAT: Enchanted Railroad
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from Jan. 13 through Feb. 19
WHERE: Morton Arboretum visitor center, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
COST: Free with arboretum admission
For information on the LGB Model Railroad Club of Chicago, visit lgbmrrcc.com.