The Village Train Station




January 17, 2021


David Bayne  -  January 5, 2021

Department 56 Buildings on model RR layouts


Click on either picture above to see David's current article.







by  Jim Kellow MMR


Mentoring Definition: A Trusted Counselor or Guide


I believe Mentoring is critical for the success of any endeavor for our hobby.

Having the advice of a skilled talented modeler can help us improve our scenes.

This is why I  want to introduce you, my reader to talented modelers and

vendors who I believe can help improve your modeling and increase your

fun and creativity in the hobby.


Thanks to a reader, I have a great modeler to introduce in this article. I am

honored that Stephen Pepin is the first modeler and village collector that I

am able to profile. I'm sure Stephen's work may be familiar to many of you,

but I believe knowing a little about the person who creates the scenes makes

it easier to talk with them and ask for their help with your modeling issues, or

discuss them building a scene or display for you. Based on my experience with

him, Stephen is easy to talk with and was very responsive to all my requests

of him for this article . . . now please meet Stephen.


Stephen Pepin


The Beginning

As a kid growing up in Canada I always enjoyed creating miniature landscapes,

little towns and running HO scale trains, but then I became a teenager and

that wasn't cool any more! Things got serious; getting through college

launching my professional life, and eventually starting a family and settling

down in the Phoenix area in 1999.


The magical day as it relates to Department 56 came on Halloween on 2003.

Our family was visiting Salem, Massachusetts, and my wife visited a gift shop

while I stayed outside with my daughter in a stroller. I glanced at the front window

of the gift shop, and there it was; a small but well done Department 56 Halloween

display. I remember seeing the Spooky Schooner and the Shipwreck Lighthouse.

My passion for Department 56 started at that very moment. Keep in mind that at

that point (2003) the Snow Village Halloween Village was only 5 years old, as it

started with the Haunted Mansion in 1998.


The Journey

I started my village with a few Halloween houses. I quickly realized that the

accessories are key for a complete scene, so I added some people and other

accessories like trees, fencing, pumpkins, etc. At Halloween in 2004 we had

a party planned at our house with several families, so I decided to build a

Halloween Village display for the guests to enjoy. It was made in a very

complicated way with the wrong material, like floral foam instead of

expanded polystyrene (EPS) but I was fairly happy with it. I learned

on my own through trial and error.


Later on I decided to make a new display and put the old one for sale

on eBay. I was quite ready to give it away instead of just throwing it

out, but it fetched a surprising amount of money. That is when the hobby

started to evolve into a business. I simply built displays in small sections,

offered them for sale, and I slowly started to get repeat customers.


The next logical step was to build my own brand and website, which

gave birth to Showcase Displays, but at that point I was still making

displays only for private collectors, not commercial work. I was also

collecting more than Halloween - pretty much something from all

villages. I enjoyed designing displays and doing the small details.

​I sometime use products associated with other hobbies, like

printed water mats that are used by Warhammer hobbyists.


This corner North Pole display was built entirely with

Woodland Scenics Shaper Sheets as the base.

A great material to shape as desired.


In 2010 came the opportunity to start doing commercial work

for Millie's Hallmark, located in Phoenix, AZ,. where over the

years I have built their entire Department 56 village gallery

and still refresh parts of it every year. I have been helping

modelers since 2010 by teaching 8 display creation classes

at Millie's Hallmark, offered free to attendees by the owners.

These classes include design, foam carving techniques,

painting, landscaping, and more.


A Bachmann tram crosses the bridge above the

Christmas in the City Village.


A Bachmann engine is used as a non-operational prop for a shallow

display. All mountains and train bridge is made of carved foam

using tools from the Hot Wire Foam Factory Company.



In 2015 Department 56 needed help with designing and creating

their village displays at their head office in Eden Prairie, and at

the Enesco (parent company of Department 56) showrooms in

Atlanta, GA, and Las Vegas, NV, which I still do today.


Trains in Villages

 Some of the store displays I created included a model train,

typically Lionel or Bachmann. This includes two Snow Village

displays, one at Millie's Hallmark and one at Knott's Berry

Farm in Buena Park, CA. The displays I create for private

collectors are designed based on what the customer has

for village houses and sometimes includes a train as well.

Displays that don't include a train are usually due to the size

of the display being too small to accommodate a train layout.


This Snow Village display at Knott's Berry Farm in

California, features a Lionel Polar Express train.


This project included not only the creation of the Halloween

display in the room, but covering the entire room wall

facade and entrance to look like stone, which was also

made by carving and painting polystyrene foam.




In closing, I would say that for me, the most important

aspects of creating a scene, are designing elevations so the

houses, figurines, trains, etc. can be more easily appreciated.

Ensuring a good level of details across the scene to make it

interesting for the viewer. And, having fun! It's a wonderful

hobby that you can do at home. Relax and enjoy it!




phone/text: (480) 267-7777



After reading about Stephen I had 3 questions I  wanted to ask.  


1.  Do you only do Department  56 scenes?

What if I have other manufacturers structures?


Stephen's Answer: I generally only build the display platforms and my customers

have their own pieces to put on them. While it’s probably about 80% Dept 56,

some of my customers also have other brands like Lemax, Plasticville or others.



2.  Do you only use new Products, houses and trains, or do you use older newly

painted or repaired, maybe even customized structures and trains in your displays?  


Stephen's answer:  This is kind of related to #1, as I generally don’t supply the

houses, trains, etc and use whatever my customers have. The retail stores I do

displays for are resellers of Dept 56 so naturally they are all new Dept 56 pieces.

I am not against working with other products, including older, modified or

repaired pieces, but my work tends to be new or retired Dept 56 items.



3.   If anyone has  a question about completing a scene like you describe can

they contact you for advice or to ask a question?  


Stephen 's answer: Yes! Always happy to provide guidance and answer

questions via phone, email or text.  


Obviously Stephen can help many of us improve our Village displays and

best of all he is happy to do so. It is up to you to take advantage of his

gracious offer and contact him.  I hope you at least send him an email

and thank him for his presentation in this article.     


Thank you Stephen, I really appreciate your help and interest in my series

of articles. I am extremely impressed with your modeling especially the way

you use various products and details in your scenes to really bring them to

life. A lot of the products you use are used by Model Railroaders so

I am familiar with many of them.      


By the way my "New Tracks" Virtual Train Show on January 16 & 27, 2021

at 1pm Eastern time will have some very creative vendors who have products

you may want to use in your Village scenes.  Also don't  forget to check out my

"New Tracks" Meetups every Wednesday and Saturday evening at 7pm eastern

time to meet a Featured Modeler or see something else being spotlighted. 


Please visit my website and register to get a

reminder email with the log in Links to the Train show and all of my

other virtual Meetup shows.


I have always believed a scene should be able to illustrate the story or idea

the modeler is thinking. I can see that the level of detail and creativity

Stephen uses, certainly meets and exceeds that standard. Congratulations

to all the companies and modelers who have benefited from Stephen's

creativity. You certainly selected an excellent modeler to help create your scenes. 


So that is it for this time. I hope you enjoyed meeting Stephen and learned

something that can help you in creating your scenes. I am off to my workbench

to travel some more "New Tracks". Thanks for reading this far.

Until next time have a happy and safe 2021.