Originally created 12/01/99

No train this year in Hilton Head



HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Missing from under at least one Christmas tree this year will be an elaborate railroad display that for four years has drawn young and old train enthusiasts to a business on Hilton Head Island.

Visitors to Shoreline Rental Co. on Pope Avenue will not find the 10 trains that ran along double-decker tracks in the lobby last year. Harold Taylor, who had assembled his German LGB collection, is hanging up his engineer's cap this Christmas.

The 68-year-old Hilton Head Island man first displayed his trains four years ago when his brother, Charles, owned Shoreline Rental. He started with three or four trains and expanded each year. Although the business was sold earlier this year, Mr. Taylor said space still was available for the 20-by-13-foot display, but he just needed a break from the time and work involved.

"It takes about 2 1/2 months at Christmas-time to do it," he said.

Mr. Taylor, his wife, daughter and a friend would begin setting up the trains Nov. 1 and complete the display after Thanksgiving, he said. The display would begin showing Dec. 1 and continue throughout the month. He would take it down more than 10 days in January.

With the trains temporarily off track, the Taylors will not be able to make their annual pit stop at the Deep Well Project. In past years, train enthusiasts who went to see the display were encouraged to bring canned goods, toys and money in lieu of a charge. The items were donated to Deep Well for needy families.

"It was a phenomenal number of items," said Betsy Doughtie, Deep Well's executive director. "It was several hundred toys, and we used them to fulfill the last-minute requests of our clients."

The money donated also was used to buy gifts, especially for 10- to 15-year-old children, Ms. Doughtie said.

"We get ample toys for little kids, because little kids are more fun to buy for," she said. "Where we run short is older kids."

Ms. Doughtie said the absence of the train display will have an impact on Deep Well's Christmas giving this year, but she expects donations will come from other sources.

"It will be just a little harder," she said. "We'll have faith."

Mr. Taylor said he is considering installing the trains next year. His display includes miniature villages and automobiles and trains.

In addition to Shoreline Rental's customers and employees, the display attracted many others. The trains were displayed on special days last year for Boy Scouts and their parents and the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce.

"The community got a big thrill," Mr. Taylor said. "There is something about it. The older people and the kids like to see trains at Christmastime."

Although he never worked for a railroad company, trains have been part of Mr. Taylor's life since his childhood. He always had at least one train during Christmas when he was growing up and he started collecting trains in the early 1960s.

He has two collections, an American set and the German set he started in 1985 when he wife, Dorothy, gave him a train as a Christmas gift.