Misspent Youth: Marley Was Dead to Begin With

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.

The first thing you see when you walk in is a layout modeled on DC, which, fair enough; we’re in the greater DC metro area. Further on, there’s a model of Fort McHenry. This isn’t a high-accuracy recreation of the local geography, but instead a fun thematic construct giving a sort of theme park version of the Baltimore-DC corridor. But then you see the face of Donald Trump blasted into the mountain. Which is a horror in its own right, but you can kinda imagine that blasting his own face into a mountain is exactly the sort of thing Trump would do.

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.

More windmills.

There’s a Christmas village above the giant Trump head. Because of course there is.

This looks nothing at all like Trump Tower, and its placement between the White House and Fort McHenry makes no sense, but I’ll allow it because that is a really clever way to use the old support columns from the Friendly’s.

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.

This circus layout is off to one side. There’s buttons to turn each of the little turntables, though one of them is broken. I wish I coulda gotten a better angle on the inside of the tent.

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.

But Frankie the Diesel had to remain in his stable during the Sodor Christmas parade, for diesels are an inferior race who were not be to be seen in public alongside good, respectable, white steam engines.

The large center layout is broadly divided into three sections. The DC/Baltimore section is toward the front, while the left and far side are a mix of traditional Plasticville-style HO-scale city stuff and more explicitly Christmas-themed miniatures.

The train you can see in the middle here is a circus train, which ties nicely with the circus layout.

I guess this is the most trainy part of the train layout.

There’s labels on the cases inviting onlookers to search for hidden details. The details aren’t hidden especially well, this being mostly a fun thing for kids.

I’m not sure what an Aqualand is, but it’s just as tall as Trump Tower, I guess.

This army base is in the back corner. There are buttons to spin the propellers on the planes at the runway.

I assume these generic avian-themed team names are to evade the wrath of MLB laywers, though the baseball stadium is clearly modeled on Camden Yards, what with the railroad warehouse making up one side of it. There’s an underground station below it, which is a really cool detail.

The last thing I saw (it’d be the first if you circled around in the other direction, I guess) is a lego layout. There’s two sections to it, only one of which has a functional train. The larger section is set up, I think, to make it look like the railroad is still under construction.

The lego section features this cool castle.

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.

2 thoughts on “Misspent Youth: Marley Was Dead to Begin With

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for December 29th, 2017 | The Slacktiverse

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