Eiteljorg exhibit evokes a magical world

By James Polston

INDIANAPOLIS — Part of the holiday season is about making memories, reminiscing about the good times and sharing traditions.

And Tom Bromstrup, chief engineer of the Jingle Rails exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, has been part of many of them over the last nine years.

Tom Bromstrup, chief engineer of the Jingle Rails exhibit, has been working with it since it started in 2010. Photo by James Polston, TheStatehouseFile.com

He is the one who keeps Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure, a G-scale model train exhibit, and its nine working model trains winding through a miniature landscape that takes visitors from Indianapolis through the American West.

Bromstrup remembers a proposal that happened at the holiday exhibit about two or three years ago.

“His goal was to bring her in and have the ring in the snow, I said, ‘You really don’t want to do that until you know they are in the building,’ and so she left the ring with me.”

Bromstrup said when he got word the couple was in the building, he put the white ring box in the snow by the part of the display with a miniature Las Vegas wedding chapel.

“His goal was to bring her through the door right over here,” Bromstrup said. “She wasn’t having anything to do with that, she wanted to see all the display on the way over here.” He indicated an area removed from the ring.

Bromstrup said when the man finally got her to the area where the ring was, he got down on one knee and proposed.

She said yes.

“Then it was fun to watch because she wanted to see the rest of the display and she walked and every few steps she’d kind of go like this and look down at the ring,” Bromstrup said.

The wedding chapel is in the Las Vegas display at the Jingle Rails exhibit. Photo by James Polston, TheStatehouseFile.com

The couple can tell friends and family that they got engaged at the Las Vegas wedding chapel, he said.

Since 2010, the Jingle Rails display has become a big holiday attraction at the Eiteljorg, a museum that collects, conserves and exhibits outstanding Western art and Native American art and cultural objects.

Since opening nearly 30 years ago, the mission of the museum has been to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history, and cultures of the American West and the Indigenous peoples of North America.

The Jingle Rails exhibit features miniature versions of local downtown Indianapolis landmarks, including the Eiteljorg Museum, Monument Circle, Union Station and Lucas Oil Stadium.

The trains in this imaginary world then chug through the national parks of the American West, passing legendary sites, including grand railway lodges, Northwest Coast Native villages, Mt. Rushmore, Grand Canyon, Yosemite Falls, Old Faithful, the Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam and much more.

Bromstrup said when he was a kid many families had holiday traditions of going downtown to the big displays that department stores had in their windows, but they don’t  exist anymore. Jingle Rails is becoming a tradition for some families.

“Grandparents come back with their grandkids and then parents come back with their kids every year to see what’s new,.” Bromstrup said.

New to Jingle Rails in 2018 is the Historic Route 66 section, the Hilbert Circle Threatre and the return of the Indiana State Fair.

Bryan Corbin, public relations manager for the museum, said before Jingle Rails came to the museum, there was a need for a holiday attraction.

A model of the Monument Cirlce in downtown Indianapolis is part of the Jingle Rails exhibit. Photo by James Polston, TheStatehouseFile.com

“The museum decided a couple years before 2010 that the museum needed a holiday display to bring families in during the holiday season and I think a couple of our board members and supporters had seen displays like this done by Applied Imagination,” Corbin said.

Applied Imagination, a company that designs countless award-winning garden railway displays across the country, created the exhibit. Each part is made from natural resources.

Located in Alexandria, Kentucky, the company has installations at many places across the country including the New York Botanical Garden, the United States Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Corbin said they have gotten many positive comments saying the exhibit reminds people of their favorite family vacations.

The exhibit is about more than trains, Bromstrup said.

“If you don’t care about trains you need to go see the exhibit and see how all that’s done with natural products and how neat it really is,” Bromstrup said.

Corbin said besides unique experience at Jingle Rails, the weather is never an issue inside the museum, unlike other attractions.

Admission to Jingle Rails is included in museum admission—$15 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and over, and $8 for youth between 5 and 17 and full-time students with an ID. Children 4 and under, IUPUI students and faculty, and members of the museum are free.

There are nine model trains running through the Jingle Rails exhibit. Photo by James Polston, TheStatehouseFile.com

The Eiteljorg is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5p.m. on Sunday. Parking, when available, is free in the White River State Park underground parking garage. The museum will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Along with the Jingle Rails exhibit, the Eiteljorg will offer holiday ornament making on Dec. 8, 15, 21 and 22 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for all ages and a showing of the movie The Polar Express show at 2 p.m. on Dec. 15 and 21.

Jingle Rails runs until Jan. 21.

For discounted tickets and information about the museum, visit www.eiteljorg.org.

James Polston is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tom Bromstrup’s name.

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