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The Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden reaches back to the 1939 World's Fair for it's 14th annual train exhibition. "Yesterday and Tomorrow" boasts scale replicas of some 60 buildings from the famous fair as well as four trains that visitors can control. There are also trains running overhead on a hanging display. "In '39, there's no question that to be close to trains was to be close to cutting edge technology," says museum director Bill Brown. "Today, we look on it as a more concrete technology than what we have now."
The Museum has assembled an impressive amount of material for the display. Glass cases showcase World's Fair memerabilia, American Flyer trains, the World's Fair section of the New York Herald Tribune and various A.C. Gilbert Co. toy sets. A board near the entrance of the museum shows the written reminiscences of area people who attended the Fair.
"Many of the older people remember the vision of the future that shone through, a vision that was so futuristic as to not be believable," Brown says.
That vision certainly comes through in the replica of the fairgrounds. There is the spike-shaped Trylon building, for example, and the globe-shaped Perisphere, which housed its own theater.
Various pavilions foretold of television, highways and the dishwasher.
But the centerpiece of the Fair, and the museum exhibit, are trains. Today's youngsters are just as enthralled by them as their grandparents were, Brown explains.
Beyond that, Brown notes that model train exhibits are a natural fit with the holiday season.
"They weigh 20 pounds and puff smoke and whistle -- and they're not Pokemon cards," Brown says.
-- Jim Shelton, New Haven Register Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1999 pg. B6