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Collection Tier:
Tier 2

Transportation ➔ Herpolsheimer's Child Passenger Train

Identifier:
2000.86.1
Description:

The Herpolsheimer’s Child Passenger Train is instantly recognizable to any baby-boomer resident of Grand Rapids. They remember riding in the train high above the toy department at the Herpolsheimer’s Department Store, which sat at the corner of Fulton and Division streets in downtown Grand Rapids. Its “space-age” look ties in with the futuristic optimism many Americans had in the post-World War II era. After passing through the hands of multiple department stores that succeeded Herpolsheimer’s, the train entered the Museum’s Collection in 2000 with a jungle-themed paint job.

When the Herpolsheimers building became City Centre Shopping Center and finally Mackie's World, it was moved to the basement food court and continued use for the same purpose. The train was always owned by the successive owners of the Herpolsheimers Department Store building at the corner of Fulton and Division Streets. The December 15, 1955 issue of Life Magazine (2014.42.1) includes a holiday article featuring the Herpolsheimers Child Train, showcasing it as an interesting, but representative, example of entertainment from the period.

The train is painted with a jungle theme but is in the process of being conserved to its original 1955 silver color. Its condition, with multiple updated paint colors, demonstrates that the train was well-used for decades. The donation includes three passenger cars, twenty-one I-beam track segments, one electric motor, one control panel, thirty-seven electric conduit segments, and miscellaneous hardware. Accordion sections of rubber are attached to each car, which served as the connectors between cars. Each car is outfitted with four small bench seats, to hold two children each.

Former names for the train included the Santa Express, Rocket Express, Caterpillar Express, and Dino Express.
Date:
1949
Materials:
Metal
Dimensions:
55" h 34" w 164" d
Current Location Status:
In Storage
Source:
Gift Of Peter F. Secchia Family
Links:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD8FDl4UOxs;https://ontechnologyandmedia.com/2012/12/26/innovation-moving-hay-barn-doors-and-joyous-children/
Exhibits/Programs
Christmas and the Herpolsheimer's Train (2008 – 2010)
This small exhibit was put out in the entrance lobby of the Van Andel Museum Center during the Christmas season for several years.

Artifact GR (2012 – 2013)
Artifact GR was a project which invited members of the community into the archives of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and asked them to write about their experiences.  The resulting submissions were cataloged in an interactive website (www.artifactgr.org) and in a published book (http://www.blurb.com/b/4400444-the-artifact-projectsoftcover).
Makers/Donors
Secchia, Peter

One Main Street LLC
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