GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A childhood favorite of Grand Rapids’ baby boomers will be on display at the Grand Rapids Public Museum this holiday season.

The newly restored Herpolsheimer’s child passenger train will be on the first floor of the museum Saturday, Nov. 17 through Jan. 18. Visitors must pay regular admission to check it out.

The train used to run above the toy department at Herpolsheimer’s department store downtown. It made its debut as “Santa’s Rocket Express” when the store opened at the corner of Fulton Street and Division Avenue in 1949.

Herpolsheimer’s changed names and hands multiple times over the years, but the train remained. In 2000 the Peter F. Secchia family donated the train to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. At that time it hand a jungle-theme paint job.

Using a December 1955 Life magazine photo as his guide, David Winick stripped away layers of paint, revealing the train’s original colors. During the yearslong project, Winick also replaced the rocket nose added to the train in the 1960s with a replica of the original 1949 nose. The Grand Rapids Public Museum says funds raised during a community event in Spring allowed Winick to complete restoring the three train cars.

Visitors who pay regular admission to the GRPM during the holidays can also check out a display of Santa Clauses from around the world and a Lego recreation of Grand Rapids in the 1925 era, complete with functioning trams.


Grand Rapids Public Museum