The Breton Village Train Display – A Holiday Tradition for Many
For most of the 2010s, I took my kids to see the trains run at Breton Village Mall.
The holiday display was fantastic and offered free fun for the whole family. We’d go every year and play I Spy – and sometimes visit Santa, too.
In fact, for nearly thirty years, this whimsical miniature train display entertained families at Breton Village Mall and was a treasured West Michigan holiday tradition.
Created and maintained by Herb DeVries and his family, the train set was carefully maintained with hours upon hours of their time and talent, just because it brought joy to others.
Several years ago, in 2017, Breton Village removed the indoor section of the mall, leaving the Breton Village holiday train without a display space. Also, Herb and his wife Shirley were not able to keep up with the tremendous amount of work required to keep the train running.
We thought that was the end of this iconic holiday staple when the train was put into storage.
Thankfully, though, that’s not where the story of the “Breton Village Train” ends.
The Community Rallies
As of November 2017, it looked like the train would stay in storage. There was no “Breton Village Train” to visit in 2017.
Email sent to April Hunt, GRKIDS Editor
Unfortunately when the Breton Village Mall lost the indoor location for the train the children of the owner decided to place it in storage and were considering selling the pieces. No new location was located so the tradition has come to an end.
Although we are somewhat relieved to not have the responsibility of setup and maintaining the layout this year, we have been lamenting for the past month already that we miss the excitement of the work. Tell your readers that we are thankful for all the memories, smiles and kind words that they gave to us over the years.Greg Mulder – Nov 6, 2017.
We like to think that our website’s conversation around the Breton Village Train helped Clare Shubert, an educator on staff at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, track down the train and eventually bring it to its new home at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Thanks to stellar teamwork between the Gerald R Ford Museum, their Foundation, the DeVries family, and some amazing community volunteers, the train was located, restored, and returned to public display in 2018, this time at the museum.
That in itself is quite the story. If you have some time, take a walk down memory lane with this video.
Now, it looks like the “Breton Village Train” will be around to help kids create new holiday memories for years to come.
I love that this local organization saw how special this train is to area families, and found space for it at their museum.
Over the last few years, the display has come to include many nods to Gerald R Ford’s life in Grand Rapids, including South High School, Bill’s Place diner, the Quonset hut used in his congressional campaign, and even a miniature version of the iconic statue that greets visitors outside of the Museum.
This will be the fourth year for “Breton Village Train” in its home at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
The Train is Renamed
Opening a new chapter for the “Breton Village Train,” the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum held a naming contest for the train in early November 2021.
The Museum wanted a new name to reflect the new home of this amazing display.
The new name, selected with public input, is “The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Express.”
The “The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Express” Display Schedule – 2021
The beloved Breton Village train, now “The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Express,” is back and will be on display at the museum this season.
You can visit the train starting Monday, November 22, 2021, through January 2, 2022, during museum open hours.
Everyone that wishes to visit the train will need a ticket.
- Kids ages 17 and under are free.
- Tickets for adults are $8.
All tickets must be booked in advance online.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Express
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
November 22, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, noon – 5 pm