Friday, December 22, 2006 at 6:13 pm

The Night Before Christmas (Model Railroading Version, Annotated)

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My father forwarded me the following bit of doggerel adapted to classic verse. Author unknown, but presumably forwarded by e-mail ad infinitum for a while. For the uninitiated, I’ve added links and annotations where appropriate:

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my pike,1
Not a steamer was stirring, not even a Mike.2
My yard tracks invitingly empty and bare,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The diesels were nestled all snug in their sheds,
While visions of DCC3 danced in their heads.
While I, in my blue-and-white engineer’s cap,4
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When down in the train room, there rose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the basement I flew like an ace,
Tripped over the cat and fell flat on my face.

I stifled a curse meant for Chessie (the cat),5
And I muttered to no one, “I meant to do that,”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an HO-scale sleigh and eight Preiser6 reindeer,

With an engineer driving, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than GG-1’s,7 onward they came,
And he blew a steam whistle and called them by name:

“On Athearn! On Lionel, Kato and Walthers!
On Kadee and Micro-Trains, Atlas and others!8
To the top of the mountains of Hydrocal plaster,
Now dash away, dash away, dash away faster!”

As dry leaves that behind a new Genesis9 fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So in through the window the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of trains, and St. Nicholas, too.

And then, on my roundhouse, I saw on the roof
The prints in the dust of each HO-scale hoof.
As I drew a deep breath, and was turning around,
From beneath the benchwork, St. Nick came with a bound.

He was dressed like an engineer from head to foot,
And his clothes had that fine smell of ashes and soot;
A bundle of trains he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — just like marker lights!
His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks like a Warbonnet,10 nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And his beard was so white, it would please Phoebe Snow.

He puffed on a pipe as he refilled its bowl,
And the smoke, it smelled just like bituminous coal.11
He had a broad face and a belly (I found)
That shook like a tank car with wheels out-of-round.12

He was chubby and plump, and I wanted to shout,
“Yes! The man’s got a route the UP can’t buy out!”13
A wink of his eye as he passed near the door
Soon gave me to know I’d have freight cars galore.14

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work.
He filled all my yard tracks; then turned with a jerk,
And leaving an airbrush he’d found on eBay,
And giving a nod, he returned to his sleigh.

He pumped up the brakes, blew two blasts on his whistle,15
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! KEEP ‘EM ROLLING! GOOD-NIGHT!”

  1. A model railroad layout.
  2. A 2-8-2 “Mikado” steam locomotive.
  3. Digital command control, a means of running multiple model trains without complicated wiring.
  4. You’re not allowed to have a model railroad without one of these.
  5. The Chessie System, successor to the Chesapeake & Ohio and Baltimore & Ohio, precursor to CSX.
  6. Leading manufacturer of scale figurines for model railroads.
  7. Wonderful electric locomotives built and operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1930s; they lasted until the early 1980s under Penn Central, Conrail and Amtrak.
  8. Major model railroad manufacturers, all.
  9. Here referring to the (real) GE passenger locomotive series (P40 and P42), not the Athearn model locomotive line.
  10. Classic Santa Fe colour scheme in red, yellow and silver.
  11. Even after railroads dieselized, coal is central: it’s currently the biggest (though not the most lucrative) commodity hauled by train today.
  12. Warped, unevenly worn so as to be unbalanced, fucked up.
  13. See also: CNW, D&RGW, MKT, MP, SP, WP, etc., etc.
  14. Can’t have too many freight cars. Seriously.
  15. “Release brakes. Proceed.”

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