Jingle Rails: Indy’s Favorite Holiday Family Tradition

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“The Fifth Third Bank Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure” is back for it’s 12th year at The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The display showcases landmarks throughout the American West while also paying homage to the city of Indianapolis. 

The massive and whimsical exhibit takes all natural materials to create these displays for families of all generations to enjoy. Applied Imagination, a company that creates all natural botanical train displays, continues to work with the Eiteljorg to create the g-scale model. The company sculpts and utilizes materials like bark, twine and pine cones to make the immersive exhibit. The botanical architecture creates scenes of national parks throughout the American West and Indy, with new additions each year. This year, the exhibit welcomes a whimsical representation of San Francisco. 

“There is a core group of scenes that have remained the central consistent year after year. Each year we have tried to add a new addition to Jingle Rails, Applied Imagination has designed and created new additions that are rotated in and out,”Bryan Corbin, the Public Relations Manager at the Eiteljorg Museum, said. 

This year, visit the fantastical recreation of San Francisco at the exhibit. (Photo courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum)

The addition of San Francisco includes Alcatraz, Pier 39, San Francisco Hills, along with other known landmarks. 

The exhibit was first introduced in 2010 in hopes to bring in families during the holiday season. In what used to be a slower time for the museum, Eiteljorg now welcomes an average of 35,000 during the 8 ½ week period of its display. Last year the attendance had dropped due to timed slots and capacity limits, while they encourage buying tickets online the museum expects the numbers to return this year as pandemic guidelines have lessened. 

The week before its opening, the Jingle Rails scenes are taken out of storage and the tracks are laid to assemble the structure. Applied Imagination, volunteers and some Eiteljorg staff work throughout the week to ensure the stability and function of the trains. 

“Shoutout to the team of volunteers who assist during the 8 ½ week run. We have train enthusiasts and hobbyists to do any repairs to the trains, since they are running 7 days a week. Volunteers are very important, instrumental to making it a successful experience,” Corbin stated.

Tom Brumstrup, a volunteer of the exhibit, listens for squeaks or noises that could warrant repairs needed as it runs throughout the holiday schedule.

(Photo courtesy of Zach Dobson)

In addition to the opening of Jingle Rails, the Eiteljorg is having a grand reopening of the children’s discovery center named the Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center, a feature in the R.B. Annis Western Family. The museum also welcomed Shifting Boundaries last weekend that displays Native American contemporary art. 

IUPUI students can visit the exhibit and the rest of the museum for free, with a student ID card present. For advance ticketing, students can call the museum front desk and request for the day of a visit. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children 5-17, free for those 4 and under. 

The exhibit will be open from November 20th through January 17th, but closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

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