The Bon Marche - Seattle, WA

Famous Window Displays - 1947 - 1952  Photo Tour of Layout - 1949

Bon Marche LayoutBetween 1947 and 1952, Bob James built model railroad window displays for this Seattle department store.  After creating a very successful O and HO gauge window display in 1947, he went on to create one of the most spectacular American Flyer displays ever built.  This window display was built for the 1948 Christmas season and was added to each season from 1949-1951, with major changes in 1949.  The 1948 - 1951 layout was unique because of its height. The rear of the layout featured 8 foot mountains with HO trains running on the two highest levels. The base level consisted of a double loop of S gauge track, with an additional S gauge loop running about 8-11 inches above that. Far above those tracks were the two loops of HO track running at different elevations. Use of the smaller HO trains at the higher elevations made effective use of forced perspective to create the illusion of distance. The 1952 layout was totally different but, while interesting with its futuristic motif, lacked the spectacular snowclad mountain scenery of the 1948-1951 displays.  After 1952, the toy train window displays were discontinued, but Bob continued with the assembly of the smaller displays in the toy department.  Below you will find several photos of the original display and its modern recreation by Scott McAbee.  There is also an extensive slide show featuring rare photos of the 1949 version of the layout from the Ray Mohrlang Collection.  To view the photo album, click on the photo at the left or on the button above.

Learn more about the Ray Mohrlang Collection


Other Photos of the layout courtesy of Kalmbach Publishing.

We are fortunate to have two excellent articles in Classic Toy Trains Magazine containing several photos of this fantastic layout and a 1994 re-creation of the 1948 layout.  The first article 1 details the construction and history of the original layout and the second article 2 chronicles the building of the 1994 replica by Scott McAbee, assisted by Bob James, the original builder.  The replica layout was displayed at the 41st annual TCA Convention in Seattle in 1995.

1947 Bon Marche Layout
1947 Bon Marche Layout - Toy Train Memories Page 67
Photo used with permission of Kalmbach Publishing

1948-1951 Bon Marche Layout
1948-1951 Bon Marche Layout - Most Likely From 1949 (Toy Train Memories - Page 68)
The caption in the book says the photo was taken in the "early 1950's" but I doubt that as 1950 was the year when oil derricks and water towers were added to the hills and they are not present in this photo.
Photo used with permission of Kalmbach Publishing

Replica Layout from 1994 - Scott McAbee
1994 Replica Layout built by Scott McAbee (Toy Train Memories - Page 68)
Photo used with permission of Kalmbach Publishing

Replica Layout from 1994 - Scott McAbee
Another View of 1994 Replica Layout built by Scott McAbee (Toy Train Memories - Page 69)
Photo used with permission of Kalmbach Publishing

The original layout is also mentioned in an article in the Train Collector's Quarterly 3


1  The Magic of Bob James' American Flyer Window Displays, by Roger Carp, Classic Toy Trains, November 1993, page 88

2  Recreating an S Gauge Masterpiece, by Michael T. Kolosseus, Classic Toy Trains, July 1995, page 59

3  Advertising Tinplate Trains - Postwar Era, Part 5B, 1950, by Raymond J. Fetzner, Train Collector's Quarterly, July 1996 (Vol. 42, No. 3), page 17 at pages 18 and 19