Doing something different this week because it’s timely. About a week ago, I went to the dentist. On my way back, I reckoned I should stop off at the mall and see if I could get in any last-minute Christmas Shopping. My predicted flight path would naturally take my past the Annapolis Mall, but I decided that, what the hell, why not do the stupid thing and swing by Marley Station again. I was out of the wrapping paper I’d bought at the dollar store the last time I was there and maybe I could pick up another roll.
Well, they didn’t have the same paper this year, and I didn’t actually find any Christmas presents to buy, but I’m glad I went all the same. You’ll recall from my previous visit to Marley that it’s a slowly dying mall about halfway between Severna Park and Glen Burnie that was, about thirty years ago, the big fancy exciting mall that drove all the small malls up the MD-2 corridor out of business. I’m pleased to report that Marley Station looked far less bleak on this visit. More storefronts were occupied, to the point that it was really only the farthest wings that looked like ghost towns, and there were plenty of people in the mall — not what you’d expect for a holiday crowd perhaps, but certainly a normal number of people for the early afternoon on a weekday.
There’s a used bookstore there now which looks charmingly like they got all their signage by dumpster diving when B. Dalton went under. They look to have opened once and then relocated to a bigger space down the hall in the time since I was last there. The bounce house place has moved over as well. A lot more of the shops were occupied, and even a bunch of the ones that weren’t open looked like they maybe weren’t abandoned — there’s a few fitness-related places that look like they only open for classes in the mornings/evenings. There was an old-fashioned candy shop where I bought a pound of red hots. And a place that specializes in nerd-culture type collectibles — one side anime DVDs and merch, the other side autographed sports stuff. There was one Christmas pop-up store, which is way less than I was expecting.
But the real reason I’m glad I took this most recent trip to Marley Station is this: remember that closed model train place I mentioned last time where the Friendly’s used to be? Turns out that it’s seasonal. Every Christmas, it opens up as a Holiday Train Garden to raise money for the North Counties Emergency Outreach Network. According to the news, they’ve been doing this for twenty-three years now. My first instinct is that they must’ve been doing it somewhere else for part of that time, but then I realize that 23 years only takes me back to High School and it’s entirely possible that the Friendly’s at Marley Station has been gone that long. And also, I feel super, super old.
Notice the windmill off to the left? The garden has numerous motion features, activated by buttons along the base. There’s a button to activate those windmills, with similar buttons to activate other things like the propellers on the presidential helicopter off to the right, or the Santa orbiting above. But I question the accuracy of placing windmills so close to the White House, given that I’m pretty sure Trump wants to ban them for not using enough coal.
Opposite the DC layout is a slot car track. Beyond that is the circus. In the corner between the two, there’s a display of animatronic Santas, including a Santa and Mrs. Claus set that adorned my parents’ VHS cabinet for decades.
In the farthest corner is a Sodor-inspired layout and a few leftover tables from the place’s restaurant days, in case you want to sit down and reflect on the trains for a while. There’s a large Santa in the corner here which my parents also own. I gave it to my mother as a present many years ago.
The train garden runs 10-9 weekdays and noon to six on the weekends through to the end of the year. They maintain a presence on instagram.