Restoring a Christmas Past tradition: Trains back in West Branch - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Restoring a Christmas Past tradition: Trains back in West Branch

by Mike Verlo

WEST BRANCH (KWWL) -- West branch held it's annual Christmas past event this weekend.  It's held the first weekend in December each year, featuring many winter time traditions.  There's horse-drawn carriage rides, a Christmas tree exhibit at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, homemade Boy Scout doughnuts, and much more.  But for the past eight years, something has been missing.

A Christmas Past began in West Branch in 1990.  Many businesses in town came up with ideas to get involved, but barber Dean Gibson found the best way he could pitch in was by sharing his passion of model railroading.

"It just seemed to be something that was of interest and just kept doing it," Dean's wife Joan Gibson said.

The Gibson trains quickly became an annual favorite.

"Every year we put it up at Christmas Time for the people to see," Dean Gibson said in 1996.

"A real neat addition to the Christmas Past here in town," Dean's son Brian Gibson said.

"It was neat to see the kids who really liked it and I think that's what kept my dad doing it each year is all the children," Dean's daughter Kathy Coen said.

Dean Gibson passed away during the summer of 2001.  The family put the trains up that winter, but the display's future was not certain.

"It takes a lot of time to set it up," Brian Gibson said.

"It's quite a process, it really is," family friend Richard Scott said.

The Gibsons had free time available this winter and decided to once again put up the train display.  What they did not realize was the large number of children who had never before seen the trains.

"Since it's been eight years, we have an entirely new generation of children," Joan Gibson said.

"We do it for the kids, my sister and her family.. worked out for them this year that they could help do it. Along with another gentleman, and a couple people here in town that helped put it up," Brian Gibson said.

"Every time we do it it's a little bit different cause we don't recreate. We try to recreate it but it looks different every time and so that's fun and so just to create a village," Kathy Gibson said.  "Working together we had help from other people getting it set up.. wasn't as time consuming as we remembered."

"There's a lot of people come to see 'em and it's been a tradition here for years and I think it's gonna be really fabulous to have it back and just in memory of Dean," Richard Scott said.

"We've been doing it ever since they had Christmas Past.. we missed one year," Dean Gibson said in 1996.

"Sure that it would please him to know that Brian is doing it..again," Joan Gibson said.

Family wouldn't say for sure if the trains would return next year.  They say it's all based on time, but they hinted there's a strong possibility.

Online Reporter: Mike Verlo

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