Jingle Rails pulls into the station with miniature versions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana State Fair and more
By Sara Spieth, Eiteljorg marketing and communications intern
Escape from being stuck at home and experience the wonders of the American West as well as the Indiana State Fair and Indianapolis 500 — all in miniature — by visiting the Eiteljorg Museum. The whimsical model train attraction Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure has become one of Indianapolis’s most beloved holiday traditions for all ages, and it returns to the Eiteljorg on Nov. 21 for its 11th holiday season.
Follow nine G-scale model trains as they chug across nearly 1,200 feet of miniature track, each passing backdrops with scenes of landmarks created out of all-natural materials such as tree bark, leaves, pine cones and acorns. Some of the trains represent actual trains that connected America. Guests can watch as the trains ramble over trestles and through tunnels, and wind around the miniature landscapes decorated with holiday lights. Starting with the downtown Indianapolis skyline including Monument Circle and Lucas Oil Stadium, the Jingle Rails journey takes visitors to iconic landmarks of the West, including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore and more.
To make the Jingle Rails experience as safe as possible, the Eiteljorg has put in place timed ticketing, a one-way visitor path through the layout and will limit the number of visitors in the space at one time. Tickets must be ordered in advance.
The appeal of Jingle Rails is multigenerational: Children of all ages to adults love model trains, and parents and grandparents love seeing the representations of national parks that may remind them of a favorite family vacation out West. But in the moment, people simply love creating magical family holiday memories.
Anyone who missed experiencing the Indiana State Fair in 2020 can again enjoy a miniature version of the fairgrounds at Jingle Rails. Steve Sipe, the Eiteljorg’s director of exhibition and graphic design, was excited to note, “This season we are highlighting the Indiana State Fair in its original location within Jingle Rails for a more enriching experience of the scene, since the actual fair was cancelled.” Favorite fair landmarks and amusement rides are depicted in miniature, including the iconic Ferris wheel.
And for fans of the Indy 500 who missed experiencing the sights and sounds of the Brickyard in 2020, a captivating miniature version of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be back on display at Jingle Rails, one of a series of scenes made possible in recent years by the Kortepeter family. The IMS scene features a working slot-car track with authentic Race Day sounds, along with the Pagoda, the Yard of Bricks, the Grandstands, the Goodyear Blimp overhead and more, all cleverly crafted out of woodsy materials.
Jingle Rails would not be possible without the help of many supporters, such as presenting sponsor Fifth Third Bank, whose downtown building and custom train engine are featured in the layout.
The creative team at Applied Imagination in Alexandria, Ky. — the botanical architecture firm founded by Paul Busse — designed and built Jingle Rails and its additions. Each year, they assemble the track and backdrops in the museum’s Clowes Sculpture Court in the week before the attraction opens. During the 10-week run of Jingle Rails, a hardworking team of volunteer model train enthusiasts, the “train guys,” ensure the model trains run smoothly and help answer visitors’ questions.
The nationally acclaimed Jingle Rails astounds thousands of visitors each year and has been featured in USA Today, Midwest Living and the Chicago Tribune.
One of the most affordable local holiday attractions, Jingle Rails is included in regular museum admission. Members are free, but need to reserve their times online. Children ages 4 and under have free admission. Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure will be open from Nov. 21–Jan. 18.
To enter Jingle Rails, all visitors — museum members and non-members — are required to reserve timed tickets in advance. Check Eiteljorg.org/JingleRails for details.
ADVANCE TICKET RESERVATIONS REQUIRED at Eiteljorg.org/JingleRails
JINGLE RAILS: THE GREAT WESTERN ADVENTURE
NOV. 21, 2020-JAN. 18, 2021
Fifth Third Bank
Katz Sapper & Miller
The Kortepeter Family
The Sunrise Foundation, a fund of the Indianapolis Foundation
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Storyteller magazine.
Images of Jingle Rails are by Eiteljorg staff or are courtesy of Zach Dobson.