“Awesome” and “stunning” are common words spoken by those who see the massive model train display put up during the holidays by the Santa Paula Odd Fellows.
“We know when someone comes in because there’s a gasp — especially when there’s a bunch of kids,” said event organizer Wes Easley of Santa Paula. “You can walk around the display . . . and in one visit you still won’t see it all.”
Now in its 11th year,the train display is a massive undertaking that took the Santa Paula Odd Fellows about six weeks to put up this holiday season.
“We’re running 18 different track lines,” said Easley, adding that two different scales are featured: the O gauge and the T gauge, with the T gauge being the “big stuff.”
“We probably have about close to a quarter mile worth of track laid down,” he continued. “About 14 square feet is the layout room, which is our lodge room. We have seating for 60 people, so you can come in, sit in comfortable chairs and watch as long as you want.”
Cost of admission is free to those 4 and under, $2 for ages 5-11 and $4 to those 12 and up.
The train display is inside the Odd Fellows Clock Tower located at 868 E. Main St. in Santa Paula.
“It’s our building . . . and has been here in this location since 1886,” Easley said. “It’s a historic,beautiful old building and guests are very comfortable coming here to see the train display.”
He noted that the Santa Paula Odd Fellows are a fraternal organization, which is a part of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF). It was founded in the U.S. in 1819 as a breakaway organization from the English order.
“Once the largest fraternal organization in the U.S., its numbers have declined as, unfortunately, most civic/fraternal groups have in the past 70 years,” Easley said.
The Santa Paula IOOF lodge 314 was founded in 1886 on Main Street.
“The lodge building burned down in a great fire, which destroyed a good portion of Main Street Santa Paula in 1903,” Easley said. “We brought it back to life in the form of the beautiful town clock building built on the original site at 868 E. Main St. and it was rededicated in 1905. The Odd Fellows have quietly worked from our prized location, being part of and helping our community since then.”
The model trains currently on display are privately owned by members of the Santa Paula Odd Fellows, and admission fees to this year’s display will be donated to a “to be determined”relief group for victims of the recent fires, Easley said.
In other event highlights, “we’re raffling off an iPad and we’ve got other little things for the kids to do, like puzzles and little contests that don’t cost anything,” he added.
This year’s train display “is completely different” in that “it’s really emphasizing Christmas,” Easley noted. He described it as a “winter wonderland in your living room on Christmas morning.”
For instance, the display includes“10 incredibly decorated Christmas trees that are each themed,” he said, “and we have something that’s always been one of our most popular things for kids —a little section carved out for Halloween. We call it our Nightmare Before Christmas.”
There are also nutcrackers of various types and sizes spread out throughout the display, “and for anybody that can guess the correct number of nutcrackers, we’ll give them a prize at the end of the show,” Easley said.
There’s a special attachment that people have to trains, he said, “whether it be a small train that’s going around your Christmas tree up to the largest train built in the United States,which is just a humongous monster. People love them because they represent cuteness — and awesome accomplishment in their construction.”
People come from all around the county and state — and sometimes beyond — to see the display. A glance at the Odd Fellows Facebook page will show rave reviews from fans as far away as San Jose and even Oregon.
“We have seen kids grow up as they return every year,” Easley said. “We have become a tradition to many families.It gives us great pride and we are honored that families do us this favor.”
And each year, the display is totally different.
“Each year you visit, you can be guaranteed it will be the first time that you you’ve seen it.”
The train display can be viewed through Dec. 30 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 3 to 8 p.m. inside the clock tower building located at 868 E. Main St. in Santa Paula. To schedule a private tour, call 805-766-4400. For more information, visit Santa Paula Odd Fellows on Facebook.