The Inn at the Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield is covered in country charm, filled with antiques and nostalgia. But this year, under the two Christmas trees something old is new again.
"I have had a fascination with trains since I was 5 years old," said AnneMarie DeFreest, the inn's owner.
This train, the Polar Express, was a gift to the inn as part of a promotional effort between Lionel trains and Select Registry member Inns. Twenty trains were given to inns across the county. As soon as DeFreest heard about promotion she wanted in. "That is part of the magic of Christmas, you get these unexpected gifts and this happened to be one of them for me," she said.
It used to be, back in the day, that a train set underneath the Christmas tree on Christmas morning was an iconic Santa present, but it seems like children are so far removed from that kind of thing. "I think technology has its good points and its bad points and sometimes there is too much screen time. I am hoping that with these trains, with the whistles blowing and the smoke coming out of the stack, it will catch the attention of the people for something that reminds us of the past," DeFreest said.
The other train has been in the family for a long time -- it too was an unexpected gift. AnneMarie gave the set to her nephew for Christmas 20 years ago when he was just five.
Reporter Judy Simpson: Do you remember what his face looked like when he opened the box?
AnneMarie DeFreest: I do. It's one of those expressions that you don't often forget. He has grown up to be an electrical engineer and I think some of it could be because he spent hours and hours trying to keep the train tracks together so the train would actually run.
The new Polar Express not only runs like a top, but smoke comes out of the stack.
Annemarie loves the fact that the Lionel train company was started in 1900. That is 10 years before this barn was even built, making the toy train a perfect fit. "We thought so and so did the Select Registry organization so we were lucky to be chosen," she said.
And now visitors to the Inn can also be transported back in time, thanks to toy trains under the tree.
One other Vermont Inn received a Lionel train -- The Swift House Inn, in Middlebury.
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