Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection
On View November 27, 2020 – February 21, 2021

New York, NY, November 17, 2020 – A magical wonderland awaits visitors with the return of New-York Historical Society’s holiday tradition. Featuring toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection (November 27, 2020 – February 21, 2021) transports young and old alike to a bygone era. The exhibition includes a variety of toy train engines and stations dating from the turn of the 19th century to the WWII era, showcasing the evolving designs of American and European toymakers. Visitors are greeted by animations and fun facts about the toys on nearby screens, and kids will be delighted by a specially created bench inspired by a 19th-century sleigh from New-York Historical’s collection. Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Jerni Collection, acquired by New-York Historical in 2014, epitomizes a golden age of toy manufacture and transportation. Toys from the 1850s to the 1950s amused children while teaching them how clockwork, steam power, and electricity worked. Though the railroad has declined, toy trains remain popular and will continue to delight children and the young at heart for generations to come.

A returning favorite on display in Holiday Express is the Blue Comet express train, produced by American toymaker H.E. Boucher Manufacturing Co. in 1929. It was modeled on the real New Jersey Central express train, which took gamblers and vacationers from New York to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1920s and early ’30s. Boucher lavished precision detail on his locomotives and rolling stock. His insistence on authenticity was costly: Boucher’s train line did not survive the Great Depression. Also on view is a set of brightly decorated and dramatically sculpted miniature Lionel figures from 1932–36, depicting African American porters, coachmen, and cooks—accurately demonstrating the demographics of the American railway labor force prior to World War II. In the Rotunda, a modern reproduction of a classic 1935 Lionel steam locomotive train set chugs its way along the tracks.

New to this year’s display are a number of toys that have not been on view for several years, including German toymaker Märklin’s Grand Station (1904–08), the largest station the company produced prior to World War II. Few examples are known to survive. Made from embossed tin, the hand-painted station features two kerosene lamps, two working bells, and a pair of functional clocks. The inside sections reveal a richly detailed interior complete with a ticket office, waiting room, and lounges with tables, chairs, and a radiator. An expansive timeline illustrated by toys from the Jerni Collection charts history of train travel—from its origins to its golden age. 

Holiday and train-themed family programs take place via Zoom throughout the exhibition’s run. On Wednesdays in December, children can learn about historical traditions associated with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa with live conversations with historical interpreters. On Tuesdays and Fridays, little ones aged 3-6 are invited to join Little New-Yorkers online for story time and crafts. Upcoming books include The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Every day during December school vacation week (December 28–January 1) Train Tales and Crafts takes place, featuring a hello song, silly movement activities, a train-themed story book reading, and a train-themed craft to do at home. Digital family guides are also available for families visiting the Museum in person, including a train-themed ‘I Spy’ scavenger hunt for trains, airplanes, animals, and more.

Note: The DiMenna Children’s History Museum remains temporarily closed. While much of the Holiday Express display remains the same, some elements like the crawl-space viewing bubble are not happening this year to ensure visitor safety. The overhead trains are also not offered this year.

About the Jerni Collection
Since its acquisition by the New-York Historical Society in 2014, the Jerni Collection has become a highlight of the Museum’s holdings. Assembled over the course of five decades by U.S. collectors Jerry and Nina Greene, the Jerni Collection is considered one of the world’s leading collections of antique model trains and toys. It includes unique, handcrafted, and hand-painted pieces dating from approximately 1850 to 1940, and features prime examples by the leading manufacturers that set the standard for the Golden Age of Toy Trains, including the German firms of Märklin and Bing, as well as the American firms Lionel and Ives.

Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection was curated by Mike Thornton. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation. It is one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association and contains more than ten million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum encourages families to explore history together through permanent installations and a wide range of family learning programs for toddlers, children, and preteens.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024. Information: (212) 873-3400. Website: Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies has sponsored the annual Holiday Express exhibition at the New-York Historical Society since 2014. Bloomberg Philanthropies works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people by focusing on five key areas: arts, education, environment, government innovation, and public health. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTube, and Twitter.

Press Contacts
Ines Aslan                                                             Marybeth Ihle
New-York Historical Society                             New-York Historical Society
(212) 485-9263                                                     (212) 873-3400 ext 326                      

Image credit: A view of Holiday Express from a past year. Photo credit: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Creative: Tronvig Group