Toccata for Toy Trains

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Toccata for Toy Trains
Directed by Charles Eames
Ray Eames
Produced byCharles Eames
Ray Eames
StarringCharles Eames
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Office of Charles & Ray Eames
Distributed by George K. Arthur [1]
Release date
  • 1957 (1957)
Running time
14 minutes
CountryUnited States

Toccata for Toy Trains is a 1957 short film by Charles and Ray Eames, one of several films (including Powers of Ten , made many years later) the husband-and-wife design team made during their career. [2] It was inspired by the gift of a toy locomotive given by Academy Award-winning director Billy Wilder. [3]


Toccata for Toy Trains is also the title of the instrumental music composed for the film by Elmer Bernstein, [4] [5] a frequent collaborator on the Eames films.


The film features mostly antique toy trains moving within fanciful settings to a toccata. Other antique toys, such as dolls (representing passengers and townspeople), automobiles and horse-drawn carriages are featured.

Most of the toys come from a mix of museum and private collections, including that of the Museum of the City of New York, and apparently date from before the 1920s. The film is shot from a toy's-eye-view, as if the viewer is following the journey of trains from two cities, beginning with the busy activity of the departure train station and surrounding downtown neighborhood, traveling across the countryside, and ending with trains pulling into the arrival station.

A short opening narration by Charles Eames, set in a roundhouse, extols the design merits of toys, especially antique toys, with their "direct and unembarrassed manner", versus scale models. Eames says the modern era has lost the art of toymaking in the attempt to have "a perfect little copy of the real thing".


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  1. Educational screen & audio-visual guide. Chicago, Ill. : Educational Screen Inc. 1971. p. 247. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  2. The Eames Legend Of Spare Simplicity - The Washington Post
  3. Eames: The Architect and the Painter and Toccata for Toy Trains, Sunday, Nov 11, 2018, 1:00pm : Indiana University Cinema
  4. Toccata for Toy Trains: Prologue, Variations, Journey, Village, Fantasy, Journey's End by Elmer Bernstein - Topic on YouTube