Virginia Kettering’s train display is a long-standing Dayton holiday tradition

Virginia Kettering’s model train display, her gift for the Dayton community, has been a holiday tradition for more than two decades.

The train-and-village setup was commissioned by the Dayton philanthropist in 1996. The late Mrs. Kettering founded “One World One Christmas,” the annual celebration now called the Dayton Holiday Festival, in 1972.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Kettering and her husband, Eugene Kettering, the son of inventor Charles Kettering, were model-train enthusiasts who kept their basement filled with the scaled-down replicas.

“We used to have one on our dining room table,” she told the Dayton Daily News in 1996, referring to a tiny model train that circled the couple’s holiday table, delivering relishes to dinner guests.

Three model trains chug through the scaled-down Christmas village: a trolley on the inner loop, a Christmas train carrying evergreen trees on the middle track and a larger diesel engine that circles the outer track.

Miniature street lights illuminate buildings with glowing windows. The structures commemorate Dayton landmarks such as Requarth Lumber, the former Dayton Daily News building and Kettering Medical Center.

There are countless engaging scenes within the arrangement. A diminutive bride and groom exit a church, a tiny man waits on a bench outside Elder-Beerman and a pocket-size Santa Claus leaves presents under a community Christmas tree.

The model was refurbished in 2009, and the majority of it is still original. The only piece missing, a trolley climbing a hill, has been replaced by a train depot.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Today, Chris Schultz, the owner of Schultz’s Hobbies in Kettering, and a team of volunteers from the Miami Valley Garden Railway Society maintain the display and assemble the display in the Stratacache Tower lobby each year.

Schultz, who powers up the display a few days before Thanksgiving, said many people have made an annual pilgrimage to see the model train display, and make it a family tradition.

“It’s really awesome to watch kids and adults stand there for hours watching the trains go around,” he said. “It brings joy to me.”


Virginia Kettering’s holiday train display, on view now through Jan. 2, is located in the lobby of the Stratacache Tower, 40 N. Main St. in Dayton.

View this one-of-a-kind model train display given to the community by Mrs. Virginia Kettering. View in the building lobby Monday - Saturday or through the windows anytime.

Lobby hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

About the Author