Trains for a Cure

It's hard to imagine the holiday train display getting any better - or bigger - in the Montalbano family's two-car garage on Beard Street each December.

But John and Kathy Montalbano and daughter, Jaclyn, have done exactly that with the display they unveiled for public display on Thursday night.

The family started the tradition six winters ago to honor neighbor Pam Greenwood, who now lives across Lake Norman in Denver, and her successful fight against breast cancer.

Admission is free, but visitors are asked to drop a contribution into a large jar for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the national foundation that funds research for breast cancer.

Last year, visitors dropped at least $1,400 in coins and bills into the jar. Over the six years, at least $6,000 has been collected.

New this year is a Thomas the Train display that John built with Thomas's young fans in mind: It's just 20 inches above the floor of the garage.

He added two bridges he built from scratch, replaced and upgraded tracks and repainted parts of the display for a fresher look. A moving bus is new, along with a Long Island Railroad set of trains.

Back are such standing features as the 3-foot-tall mountain Jaclyn built from plaster and porch screen; train tracks 10 feet above the garage floor; and a miniature drive-in that shows "White Christmas" in color on a portable DVD player.

A New York Mets subway train has the look and sounds of the real train making stops to the old Shea Stadium.

"All Aboard Against Cancer" and "Trains for a Cure" read the sides of special pink trains in the display.

Each year when she visits for the first time, Greenwood is amazed at the display and what new the Montalbanos have added.

"Where do you find the room?" she asks.

"Every little corner," John Montalbano replies.

"It's fun, and it's a cause," he said as trains whizzed along the tracks last week. "People come by and say it must be a lot of work. I say, work is 8 to 5. This is enjoyment."