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Navy helicopter, Japan, ca. 1960
Navy helicopter, Japan, ca. 1960 Courtesy of the Children's Museum of Virginia

Lancaster Toy and Train Collection at the Children's Museum of Virginia

In December 1994, the Lancasters donated their personal collection of 5,000 toys and trains, lovingly collected for more than forty years, to the Children's Museum of Virginia in Olde Towne Portsmouth.

The Children's Museum of Virginia opened in 1980 as the Tidewater Children's Museum. It moved several times until finding its new home in a three-story facility in 1994. The antique toy collection contains more than 2,000 toys of all descriptions, including well used Tonka vehicles, mint condition model cars, beautifully preserved Buddy L trucks, fire vehicles of all eras, and tin windup and cast iron toys. The collection also features circus toys, including circus tents filled with colorful circus figures, trapeze artists, and circus wagons.

The enormous train collection boasts an extensive array of pre- and post-war O and standard gauge trains from Lionel, Williams, and Weaver; MTH O gauge trains; and No. 1 gauge Aster trains. The oldest object in the collection is the standard gauge summer trolley #303 built in 1910. The collection contains only one steam locomotive, which is a scale model of the German class 01 4-6-2.

The train exhibits are designed so that visitors can learn about model railroading and railroad history, and how it relates to the Portsmouth and Hampton Roads area. Trains are displayed on along wall exhibits and in four themed layouts. Two G-scale trains run through a brightly lit candy lane, highlighted with huge cookies, peppermint sticks, lollipops, and other convection. Standard gauge trains from Lionel travel through a 1950s mining town scene, with high trestle bridges and deep mountain tunnels; another layout portrays a coastal theme, where trains pass by a lighthouse and resort hotel.

Documentation includes three newspaper and magazine articles, a text report, a brochure, photos and a video.

Originally submitted by: Norman Sisisky, Representative (4th District).



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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