What Goes Into Boxcar Design?

Ronald McDonald House supporters customize Trains at NorthPark looks

Every holiday season for the past 33 years, Ronald McDonald House of Dallas has made model train dreams come true. 

Texas’s largest miniature train display will run from Nov. 14 to Jan. 3, 2021, fueled as always by its supporters’ generosity and creativity.

Supporters can purchase a variety of cars, and proceeds go to RMHD to allow the charity to continue providing a comfortable place to stay for families with seriously ill children in nearby hospitals.

“Each individual railcar design is custom requested by the purchaser and hand-painted by RMHD seasonal contract artists,” said Kathlyn McGuill, special events manager for RMHD. “When the railcar is ready, and we’ve checked it twice, it goes to the Trains at NorthPark for display. Purchasers can then hunt for their family’s unique railcar inside the exhibit.” 

Attendees celebrating Trains at Northpark from a previous year

Trains will be displayed both on the tracks and along the wall, and all of the railcars will be rotated throughout the course of the exhibit to make it onto the tracks at least once. They can also be placed on the tracks upon request by the train engineers on site.

The RMHD contract artists paint about 600-700 cars each year, and there have been thousands of designs that have made it through the exhibit over the years. 

McGuill recalled some of the unique requests received over the years. 

“The onion domes of the Russian architectural style on a castle were requested my first year,” McGuill said. “And then a baby gender reveal was done by a couple who was expecting last year. They gave us the gender and said to paint a purple railcar if it was a girl or a turquoise railcar if it was a boy, and then they went to the exhibit to hunt for it with their family to find out the gender.”

McGuill said that it takes about three weeks from the date of a railcar purchase to make it to the exhibit, and advises participants to order a car by mid-December to see it displayed before the exhibition closes.

Trains at NorthPark will observe pandemic prompted safety and hygiene protocols during this season’s run, Nov. 14, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2021. Those include:

  • Daily deep cleaning of the exhibit
  • Cashless transactions
  • Tickets for specific dates
  • Social distancing and masks required
  • Hand sanitizer dispensed at the entrance

Want To Help? Visit thetrainsatnorthpark.com or contact Kathlyn McGuill at [email protected] to support The Trains at NorthPark. For sponsorship information, contact Diane Fullingim at [email protected]


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