Column: Exploring Eiteljorg’s holiday exhibit


In the last of our visits to interesting sites in and around Indianapolis, we stop by Jingle Rails, an annual holiday exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art opened in White River State Park in 1989. The museum was named for Harrison Eiteljorg, whose extensive holding of art and other items from and about the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America formed the foundation of the museum’s initial collection. Today, the museum’s collection is considered among the finest of its kind in the U.S.

Every holiday season since 2010, the museum has featured “Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure.” At the heart of this special exhibit is nearly a quarter mile of miniature railroad tracks. Nine G-scale model trains follow the tracks over wooden trestles and through make-believe tunnels, passing by buildings and landmarks representative of Indianapolis and the American West. Almost everything is created from natural materials, including such things as tree bark, nuts, seeds, leaves and cinnamon sticks. Structures from Indianapolis at the beginning of the exhibit include the Eiteljorg Museum, Union Station, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana State Fairgrounds and Monument Circle, complete with the Soldiers and Sailors Monument decked out as the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree.” On a nearby representation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, slot cars race each other around the miniature oval.

Western scenes include the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Falls, the Golden Gate Bridge, Old Faithful, Mount Rushmore, Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip.  Lights and holiday trimmings are everywhere, creating a festive atmosphere enjoyable by adults and children alike. Each year, the presenters of Jingle Rails attempt to provide something new. The addition this year is a lighted inflatable train on the museum’s front lawn, colorfully calling attention to what is inside.