Ban Bywaters has loved trains his entire life. For the past seven years, he’s transformed his Preston Hollow home into a Christmas train depot for neighborhood kids to enjoy.
“We enjoy having fun and having neighborhood kids over,” he said. “The main thing is that we also like to do some teaching.”
Tracks wind behind a couch and under a table in the family room, before traversing the entrance hall and circling the Christmas tree. Ban’s wife, Kathleen, has learned to watch her step when she comes through the front door.
“I actually knocked one down the other day,” she said.
Multiple circuits throughout the house power the engines. Ban can often be found holding a master remote control that directs all the trains and track switches.
Up to three kids are allowed to see the display at a time. Ban said the small group size gives them more personal time with the trains. He also lets them take turns controlling the trains.
“They aren’t going to see anything like this almost anywhere else,” Ban said.
Each year’s display has a theme. This year the focus is locomotives from 1937-47. Among the trains featured are a model of the first stainless steel passenger train and a yellow and brown Streamline Union Pacific passenger train.
“I remember when I was in grade school they actually had pictures of that on the cover of my social studies book,” Ban said. “I always wanted to have one of those.”
Ban first publically unveiled his elaborate train collection at the Dallas Federal Savings and Loan office in 1975. He returned annually for the next 11 years.
“I took one year off and got hate mail,” he joked.
The trains’ next holiday stop was a two-year stint at the Hotel Crescent Court. “That’s when I finally figured out you can make money with this stuff for charity,” Ban said.
Proceeds from the ticketed event benefited Easter Seals and the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas.
Ban then had a 10-year run at the Galleria, before founding the Trains at NorthPark.
He oversaw the NorthPark Christmas event for a dozen years. Seven years ago, he decided that it was time to let someone else run it.
“I told them [Ronald McDonald House of Dallas], ‘I’m going to turn it over to you, because when I die it would die with me, and that’s your biggest fundraiser.’”
Kathleen said she has gotten used to having holiday trains chugging through the house. She also appreciates the fact that Ban has so much fun with his hobby. Despite all the work required to set up and maintain the elaborate display, the couple relishes sharing something with the community.
“Just remember the two magic words,” Ban advises. “All aboard.”