December 9, 2002
Train whistles signal arrival of holiday season at Methodist Rehabilitation Center
By Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—For the denizens of Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s two-story Atrium Mall, there’s no surer sign of the holiday season than the sounds of the Christmas train chugging through the medical library.
The train has come to be known as the hospital’s harbinger of yuletide and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
“Nothing gives us more pleasure than to see the faces of the young kids and the ‘adult’ kids who stare through the window at the train this time each year,” said Madison resident Greg Lauten, a technician in Methodist Rehab’s biomedical engineering department and one of the architects for the annual train display.
“But if you really want to know, we probably get as much joy out of building it as we do seeing the smiling faces around it,” he added.
Each year, starting in November, the biomedical staff starts work on the newest train display. They’ve been doing it for hospital staff, patients and visitors for six years and more than 300 hours went into the creation of the current set.
The display—which includes two locomotives, a trolley and Santa Claus with his reindeer circling overhead a lifelike model of Methodist Rehabilitation Center—runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until New Years Day.
Also included in the model are representations of local businesses, patients in wheelchairs and a papier-mache replica of The Independence—Methodist Rehab’s 69,000 gallon hot air balloon. An audio tape of train sounds plays on a continuous loop.
“None of us can leave our jobs to be the conductor,” said Edwards resident Tim Love. “So the train has to be able to run autonomously. We do daily maintenance like cleaning and lubricating the tracks to make sure it can go nine hours without supervision.”
During a typical Christmas season, the biomedical engineering staff will wear out two engines and several pager motors, said Charles Moy of Jackson. “We use the pager motors to power the little airplanes that fly over the display and an old copy machine motor makes Santa circle the hospital.”
Hundreds go through the Atrium Mall each day back either commuting back and forth between Methodist Rehab and the University of Mississippi Medical Center or stopping at one of several shops in the mall including a McDonald’s restaurant.
“It’s a very cool train. I always look forward to seeing it,” said occupational therapist Sarah Riccio. “Whenever people walk by it, they can’t help but stop and watch for a while. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.”
For more information:
Hospital train helps keep holiday spirits on track | The Clarion-Ledger
Two year-old Tyler Frederick of Noxapater leans against a window at Methodist Rehabilitation Center to get a better view of the Jackson hospital's Christmas train display.
Madison resident Greg Lauten, a technician in Methodist Rehabilitation Center's biomedical engineering department, is one of the architects of the Jackson hospital's annual train display.