What started as a gift for their daughter nine years ago has developed into a living Christmas village, featuring seven trains and three trolleys that bustle through a commercial downtown, residential area and amusement park.

What started as a gift for their daughter nine years ago has developed into a living Christmas village, featuring seven trains and three trolleys that bustle through a commercial downtown, residential area and amusement park.

Northridge school district resident Rob Johnston and his wife, Jennifer Barrett, bought model homes to complement his train hobby when a retired minister and his wife gave them money to purchase something for their daughter to enjoy.

"They were our neighbors in Martinsburg, W.Va., and they didn't have family," she said. "Our daughter is 9 years old now and the village has grown to be 20 feet long and up to eight feet deep, with as many as four levels," Barrett said.

"Every year we add something that means something to our family," she said. "This year my youngest daughter rode her first roller coaster, so we added a roller coaster."

Barrett said their former neighbors would be so pleased to know their initial gift has grown into something that has benefited many people through charitable events.

"Our girls love it," she said. "It started as a small gesture and we've raised thousands of dollars."

This year, the family is opening its home at 1691 North County Line Road as a stop on the Croton Christmas Tour of Homes, scheduled to take place from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6.

Proceeds of the Croton Christmas Celebration are divided between the Church of Christ and Croton United Methodist Church to help needy families in the community. Cost of the tour is $3.

Barrett said she was more than happy to participate, after the ladies from the Church of Christ requested her home be a stop on the tour.

"Last year the (school district) closed our elementary, and I was sending a kindergartner to school who would have ridden an hour and a half on the bus," she said. "The ladies at the church sponsored a bus stop so the ride got cut to 20 minutes. It was a godsend they took the time to do this for the community. The work they do for the community is real community work."

Johnston, who enjoyed his own model trains as a child, uses the elaborate Christmas village to teach his daughters some family history.

A great grand uncle was a foreman for the East Liberty Trolley Line in Pittsburgh, Pa., he said.

The entire family gets involved in setting up the village, traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. This year's tour of homes, however, accelerated that schedule.

Johnston said the trains include Mike's Train House, Lionel and K-Line models.

"Most of the materials we used to build the platform are from remodeling projects," he said.

Barrett calls her husband a perfectionist and says he's the train buff, but he notes that she was the one who purchased the newest train on their trip to Hershey, PA.

"Everything smokes and lights up," Johnston said.

In addition to the trains and Christmas village, the couple's home also features five Christmas trees. A tree in the foyer is adorned with all unbreakable ornaments, while the kitchen tree is covered with toy decorations.

Other stops on this year's tour:

The home of Jack and Margie Harrison, 13933 Bethel Road. Pizza Place, owned by Mark and Sherrie Webb, 2 S. Main St. The home of Ken and Barb Hewlett, 38 S. Main St. Croton Church of Christ Youth Center, 40 S. Main St.

In addition to the Tour of Homes, the 23rd annual Croton Christmas Celebration will include other activities such as visits with Santa on the Square from 2 to 3 p.m. and horse-drawn wagon rides from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Methodist Church will provide a dinner of soup, sandwich and dessert for a donation from 4 to 6 p.m.

The annual community candlelight service will conclude the day's activities at the Church of Christ beginning at 7 p.m