"He'd be here all night if you let him," said next door neighbor Kim of her son Maddox, who was happily staring at the trains running round and round. "It's the first thing he talks about when he leaves the house and the last thing he talks about at night."
Maddox lives next to a longtime neighborhood attraction in Mountain View, the model trains in Ernie and John Bianco's front yard at 2387 Adele Ave. The father and son have been running the trains for everyone to see since 1977, when they decided to extend their Christmas tree train through their front window onto a platform. It's grown since then to include two larger sets of tracks on the front lawn.
When Kim was buying the house, she was pregnant with her son, and the Biancos mentioned that he might like their train display. She really had no idea what they were talking about until just before Thanksgiving when they brought out piles of gravel, train tracks and dozens of train cars, which change every night.
Now her son is one of hundreds of young kids who show up every day between 6 and 8:30 p.m. to watch the trains run between early November and Christmas Day. The Biancos take a break Monday nights to watch football.
"The kids get a huge kick out of it," said Ernie, the elder Bianco. One night there were 300 people who came out to see the trains after an article in a local newspaper. Others have "garden trains" in their backyards, but the Biancos decided not to hide theirs.
"Kids come around trick or treating on Halloween and they are asking 'when are the trains going up?'" Ernie said.
On Thursday night last week, a handful of young families with children were there early, waiting on some rugs the Biancos put on their front lawn. The Biancos have the routine down pat. A special ramp was used to quickly load the two larger sets of tracks on the lawn with trains, and pieces of the front window were removed to allow the smaller trains through. John slowly turned up the knob on the transformer, and the show began to mesmerize the kids.
One year, an excited kid jumped out of his parents' car and ran straight for the train, toppling it over, Ernie said. Since then, the Biancos have had to put up a small fence made of rope.
The Biancos also started another tradition. On Christmas Eve the entire length of Adele Avenue is lit with lights in paper bags called "farolitas."