The Birmingham Historical Museum is presenting its antique toy, train exhibit

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 5, 2012

 Model trains from the 1920s and ‘30s are a favorite among museum visitors at Christmastime, says Birmingham Historical Museum Director Leslie Pielack.

Model trains from the 1920s and ‘30s are a favorite among museum visitors at Christmastime, says Birmingham Historical Museum Director Leslie Pielack.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

BIRMINGHAM — There’s nothing quite like the sight of bright, colorful toys to bring the holidays to life for kids of all ages.

That’s just what’s in store for visitors of the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park this season with the return of the Toy & Curiosity Shoppe — an annual exhibit that features antique toys and model trains from years gone by.

According to museum Director Leslie Pielack, the exhibition has been one of the museum’s most popular events for over 10 years. This season’s collection will present playthings and train sets from the 1920s to ‘30s, garnered from a combination of private collectors and the museum’s own toy chest.

“Our annual holiday exhibits are a great way the museum connects with our community. We display artifacts from our own collection, but we especially like to feature objects loaned to us by private citizens,” said Pielack.

The exhibit features a mock toy store window display with dolls, games, teddy bears, tea sets and more from the pre-Depression era. During that period, the country saw a surge in new types of toys since items that were made overseas were being sold for the first time in the United States, according to museum assistant Connie Locker.

Some of the toys on display, like an old-fashioned dollhouse and checkers game, will be set out for kids to play with, along with interactive activities for adults. In another room, visitors can take in the two-tiered working model train display, which Pielack says is usually a favorite for many who come each year to see the little locomotives.

“Every year, local model train collectors and experts design and build the exhibit and loan some really unique working trains for everyone to enjoy,” she said. “Because the exhibits change every year with different trains, set-ups and backdrops, we have lots of return visitors who make stopping into the museum part of every holiday.”

Locker, who’s been a part of the museum team since May, says that though this is her first year helping with the Toy & Curiosity Shoppe, she can see what a beloved tradition it is for residents of Birmingham.

“I’m excited. People really seem to love this,” said Locker. “On the first day, we had people waiting outside for us to open.”

The exhibit is on display now during regular museum hours and will run through Jan. 12. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children, and free for kids under 5. The museum, located at 556 W. Maple in downtown Birmingham, is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park, call (248) 530-1928 or visit