Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Rebbe Keeps On Chugging

Trains, for all that they are about transportation, have been every bit as much about transporting our spirit through magical names and scenery. This country’s been criss-crossed (as have suburban basements) with trains and model trains like the Silver Meteor, the Gulf Breeze, the Pocahontas, the Coast Starlight — the Lubavitcher Rebbe?

Yes, the world of model trains now has a replica of 770 Eastern Parkway (Chabad-Lubavitch’s international headquarters in Crown Heights) to go along with the little mock trees and crossing lights that add the illusion of distant towns to the whistling Lionel in the night.

The model of 770 is being made available through, an Israeli-based outlet for model trains and related products. Maybe some kids dream of the Orient Express and Pullmans, but for Jewish children this company produces items like its model of the modest Israel Railway that chugs out of Tel Aviv — a legendary, if Levantine, version of the little train that could.

What accessories will the 770 model come with? A little plastic man-in-black emissary for your neighbor’s model train? Tiny dog-eared posters of the Short Line schedule to Monticello that can stick to its walls? Is Chabad behind all this?

Shari Blok, president and co-founder of Model-TrainStore.Com, Inc., says via e-mail from Israel: “Our company is not connected to Chabad. We, my husband and myself, both have strong positive experiences with Chabad, but our inspiration comes more from creating models of internationally known Jewish buildings.”

The company plans to let people vote on such building on its Web site.

“We plan on this being just one of a series of Jewish models, Blok says. “We have had many customers come into our model train store located in Mercaz Clal, Jerusalem, asking for model building kits of Jewish buildings or building of Jewish significance.”

After researching different manufacturers and determining that no such buildings existed, “we decided to build our own limited edition model kit,” using a manufacturer in Denmark, not far from her husband (and co-founder) Tsadok Moshe Blok’s childhood home in Sweden.

“We chose 770 Eastern Parkway,” says Blok, “because it is an easily recognizable building known by Jews worldwide.”

Chances are the late rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, never thought of his home and headquarters in quite this way. But Blok says, “it is a wonderful building for train enthusiasts who have an urban layout.”

Jonathan Mark


asher said...

I wonder which version they are using: the 770 building in Brooklyn New York or the exact same model that was built with Chabad money in Israel so that when Moshiach comes to Israel he will feel at home. Also, which version of the plaque proclaiming the Rebbe as Moshiach will be included...the one which reads Z"L or the one which implies he is still alive.

Anonymous said...

Hi Asher,
We choose *NOT* to include the plaque to make it transparent. The model was built by the original plans from the 770 EP in Israel - Kfar Chabad.

Unfortunately the manufacturer sold our sole exclusivity on production to the largest model manufacturer in the USA. We paid for research, development and production. They had no right to do that! But I guess history '38-45 needs to repeat itself.