Citi model train display comes to end of the line

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The model train display at Citigroup Center in New York has reached the end of the line.

Citigroup, which is trying to cut $50 billion of expenses next year, has decided to stop leasing the elaborate display that for two decades has run in the bank’s headquarters building in midtown Manhattan during the holiday season.

The display will be dismantled after the holidays and won’t be back next year.

The savings for Citigroup? About $240,000 in 2009.

Clarke Dunham, who leases the train setup to the bank, said about 125,000 people see the display in the basement of the slant-roofed Citigroup Center each season.

Thirty-one trains circle through the display, which portrays a journey from Weehawken, New Jersey, just outside New York City, to a fictional town in the Hudson River valley, then up to the Catskills and the Adirondacks.

Citigroup is cutting costs after posting four straight quarters of losses and more than $71 billion of writedowns and credit costs since the credit crisis began.

The bank has stopped leasing the train set during periods of belt-tightening before, Dunham said, most notably in 1990 and 2000.

“In 2000 there were 22,000 complaints about the missing trains, there were tour buses arriving full of people that wanted to see the trains, and stockholder groups said to (then Chief Executive) Sandy Weill, ‘Why throw away one of the few civic things you do that makes people smile?’,” Dunham said.

Citigroup spokesman Mike Hanretta said the decision not to sponsor the train display next year “was part of ongoing expense reductions.”

Dunham, whose son works as a journalist at Reuters, said about five people work on the display throughout the year, and another 20 people install it during the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Reporting by Dan Wilchins; editing by John Wallace