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Arts & Entertainment

How the Trains at NorthPark Get On the Rails

NorthPark’s annual exhibit of miniature trains is almost as big of a draw as Santa. Here’s how they do it.
| |Photography by Jill Broussard
Roger Farkash northpark trains
Pine Craft: Roger Farkash starts building his mini holiday world in July. Jill Broussard

In a fairly nondescript yellow brick building in the Cadillac Heights area, Roger Farkash and his crew of “traingineers” have been busy since July planning the layout and creating the displays for the annual Trains at NorthPark exhibit. The display has benefited the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas for more than 30 years; Farkash’s company, TW TrainWorx, has been responsible for it for about 12 of those years. A different empty storefront is designated for the show each year, which means as soon as the space is chosen, Farkash and his team get moving.

“October and September are the big push months for us,” he says. “But it’s not eight hours every day, because we’re working on different aspects of it before we actually get it into the space.” 

There are certain things that everyone expects: the replica of the State Fair of Texas, complete with Big Tex and the Cotton Bowl, for instance. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science. NorthPark itself. But Farkash says that the rest of the display, which frequently features scenes from around the country, is a bit of a Tetris-like puzzle. They have to figure out what will fit in this year’s spot as well as how to accommodate all the sponsored rail cars that are part of the fundraising effort.

“When we originally designed the overall display, it was in one of the largest spaces NorthPark had available,” Farkash says. He adds that, as a contingency, they still planned for the smallest space the exhibit could ever fill. “That’s less than a third of the size of the original display.”

The exhibit may have gotten smaller over time, but Farkash says that they always make sure that essential items are included. Moving figures, signs that turn off and on, tractors that move back and forth. “There are accessories that the kids can push the buttons to make them operate,” he says. “We’re always creating new elements like that because they get worn out so much.” 

Farkash usually manages at least one trip to see the finished product after it’s opened, including last year when he visited with his family and grandchildren. “I always attend the exhibit. If it wasn’t for the smiles we see, it would be a different business. It wouldn’t be as exciting as it is. But knowing that our efforts produce so much happiness is very fulfilling.”  

Four Decades of Small-scale Fun

TW TrainWorx turned 40 years old this year. The company is a subsidiary of Farkash’s first business, TW Design, which created backdrops and set designs for stage, film, and trade shows. The company has another studio in North Carolina that builds sets and displays, and its work can be found in museums, corporate headquarters, and homes. “We just completed a very large installation in California for a gentleman where the centerpiece in one room—the train is connected between two very large rooms—is a replica of Los Angeles,” Farkash says. “Even the clocks on the clock tower work.” TW TrainWorx, 2808 McGowan St. 214-634-2965.


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.