Recommended for ages 6 and under with a grown-up’s assistance. This guide is for use in the Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection exhibition on view on the first floor at the New-York Historical Society.
All aboard! Our annual toy train-filled holiday exhibition is on view from November 27, 2020 – February 21, 2021. Train lovers and toy enthusiasts big and small are invited to use this guide to go on an I Spy hunt.
On your marks…get set…explore!
Start in the Geduld Family Rotunda by our 77th St. entrance (near Parliament Coffee Bar) to start your I Spy adventure.
Take a stroll around the entire case. What is the most interesting object you see on display inside? Point it out to your grown up!
I spy with my little eye…a Ferris wheel! Can you find it?
Did you know that by 1900, Ferris wheels were popular attractions for paying riders and inspired the creation of many steam driven and wind up toys? The Ferris wheel you see here can be attached to a steam engine or even operated by hand!
I spy with my little eye…a medical train car! Can you find it?
This medical car can be identified by the red cross. Can you spot it?
This toy train features a detailed interior and had accompanying accessories, like stretchers for wounded toy soldiers. Kids would lift off the roof to get items in and out of the train car.
I spy with my little eye…a mine shaft elevator! Can you find it?
Standing at nearly two feet tall, this toy elevator was the tallest toy coal mine elevator ever produced by the toymaker Gebrüder Bing. It shuttled miners and their loads of coal up and down, and could even make stops along the way!
I spy with my little eye…a post office sign! Can you find it?
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever gotten in the mail? Share with your grown up.
To continue on your I Spy adventure, walk over to the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery on the 1st floor. Look at the tall cases in front of our main staircase.
Look around. Is there a train you like the look of most? Point it out to your grown up!
Ask your grown up if they have a favorite, and ask them to share it with you!
I spy with my little eye…a green steam engine! Can you find it?
Look closely: Can you tell this push toy is hand painted? When this toy train was made over 125 years ago, it was the largest and best constructed toy train for sale in Europe.
I spy with my little eye…a red caboose! Can you find it?
A caboose is a railroad car at the very end of a freight train. It provided shelter for a train’s crew who used to manually do the shifting and shunting on a train’s journey.
I spy with my little eye…a streetcar! Can you find it?
Look a little closer. Are all the seats on this streetcar facing the same direction?
Have you ever sat on a train with seats facing different directions? Why do you think it would be helpful to have seats facing both forward and backward in a train car?
I spy with my little eye…a bridge! Can you find it?
Called the Hell Gate Bridge, this toy bridge is modeled after a real-life bridge that spans the East River between Queens and Randall’s Island. The actual bridge, now a part of Amtak’s Northeast Corridor Line, was the world’s longest steel-arch bridge from 1916 to 1931.
I spy with my little eye…a large black train engine and tender! Can you find it?
Made by special order only, toymaker Märklin’s 5-gauge toy trains were the largest they ever created. This toy train is powered by a working steam boiler and holds up to a litre of kerosene, which was more than enough to keep it running for a few hours!
I spy with my little eye…two little men working on a hand car! Can you find it?
Take a closer look at the two little men wearing yellow shirts. Can you and your grown up work together to act out the motion they’re making to make the hand car go?
We have one last object for you to find, and it’s a big one. HINT: It’s not in a glass case—in fact, you can climb on it!
I spy with my little eye…a life-size sleigh! It will look similar to this photo of a 19th century sleigh in our collection. Can you find it?
A sleigh glides on runners instead of rolling on wheels like a carriage. Why do you think these vehicles have runners? Can you think of anything else that has runners instead of wheels?
Climb aboard! Imagine taking a ride through Central Park in this beautiful sleigh on a snowy day. What might you see? Remember to wave at all the friends you pass by!
And if you snap a photo, please share with us on social media by tagging @nyhistory!
Congratulations, you did it! You’ve completed our Holiday Express I Spy Family Guide!
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.