Trolley Museum kicks off Winterfest

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
East Windsor - posted Wed., Dec. 4, 2013
Eric Price-Glynn and his son, Eric, of West Hartford, checked out the train displays. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Eric Price-Glynn and his son, Eric, of West Hartford, checked out the train displays. Photos by Annie Gentile.

The holiday season has officially begun, and one great way to celebrate it is with a visit to Winterfest 2013 at the Connecticut Trolley Museum.

From Thanksgiving through the end of December, people of all ages are invited to take a ride on either an open electrical trolley car or a warmer enclosed trolley, as they travel through a 1-and-a-quarter-mile “tunnel of lights.” Afterwards, they may stroll over to the museum’s visitor center, where they may enjoy viewing a variety of model train layouts or climb aboard decorated full-size trolley cars, enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate, and listen to live musical entertainment, all under the festive colored lights.

Santa and a friendly elf are also holding court in the visitor center, and children will have the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and receive a present.

“It’s a nice family-oriented event that takes you back to a time when things were simple,” said museum manager Carol Zenczak, who wasn’t entirely sure how long the event has been going on, but said it possibly dates back to the late 1970s. “We have people who have made a visit to Winterfest an annual family tradition,” she said. “It’s great because we want families to come here and have fun.”

George Contrada is one of the many volunteers who help to make Winterfest a fun-for-the-whole-family event. “I’ve been volunteering here since August of 1999. We try to change it up and make it better and better every year,” he said. A model train enthusiast, Contrada said he is part of a crew of people who, upon the end of the Halloween-themed “Rails to the Darkside” event, start work specifically on the train layouts. Other groups, he said, work on putting up the lights on the trolley lines, and on putting up the outside displays. “It’s a cumulative thing. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done.”

Contrada said he’s been entranced with trains since he was 3 years old, and is one of a few volunteers who brings his own train layouts to put on display. “We have mostly O and G gauge trains in the displays, because they’ve proven to be the most dependable,” he said. “After all, we turn them on at 5 p.m. and they have to run four hours straight each night we’re open.”

On the first Sunday night of Winterfest, during the Thanksgiving weekend, Camilo Santiago was one of several motormen operating a trolley as it jostled along the “tunnel of lights.” Santiago said he’s been volunteering at the museum since September of 1999, and on that particular Sunday he was operating the open car, a.k.a. “The Montrealer.” During the ride, Santiago provided a running discourse about the operation of the trolleys, saying he generally runs the car at from about 11 to 16 miles per hour so that riders can get the full enhancement and enjoyment of the ride. Halfway through the ride, he stopped the car to reverse the electrical pole that allows the trolley to run. He explained that he communicates with the conductor through a series of bells on the trolley. “The conductor is really the eyes and ears of the trolley,” he said.

Winterfest will be open from 5 until 9 p.m., Dec. 6, 7, 8, 13 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22. Santa will be there giving each child a gift until he heads back to the North Pole on Dec. 22. The event will also be held Dec. 26 through 30, from 6 to 9 p.m.

For more information about Winterfest, including ticket prices, visit the Connecticut Trolley Museum website at

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