Model railroad club's open house brings out kids of all ages

December 02, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Four-year-old Johnathan Mead's eyes filled with tears and he buried his head in his grandmother's side Sunday afternoon when she mentioned leaving the model railroad show.

Johnathan dragged grandparents Robert and Joan Boxler of Fayetteville, Pa., to the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club's open house twice Sunday afternoon, and he didn't want to hear any talk about them leaving again.

He was so upset at the prospect, he didn't even want to say what he liked best about the room filled with nearly 35 scale miles of railroad tracks with dozens of HO-, N- and O-gauge trains.


"He really enjoyed the Lionel trains and wants to come back next Sunday," Joan Boxler said. This was a special treat for Johnathan, who normally plays with his grandfather's trains.

With the threat of departure at least temporarily averted, Johnathan climbed back onto a white step stool so he could peer down on the trains, this time an HO locomotive chugging through a miniature town.

Nearby, Rick Ackerman, of Shippensburg, Pa., said he and his son Zachary, 5, come every year to the train show.

"My son is a big train fan. He has two trains at home and asked me the other day when we were coming," Ackerman said. "I'm just the driver."

From his perch on top of his father's shoulders, Zachary watched a Lego train travel through a Lego village.

"Everything," Zachary said exuberantly when asked what he liked best about the train show.

Every year, the 30 members of the club work on new scenery and projects for the Christmas Open House.

During the past year, club members have added O-gauge and other larger train series into the mix, club President John Norris said.

Running about a dozen trains at a time is a carefully orchestrated operation involving hand signals from club members stationed around the room.

"The long trains are like running the real things - you have to do it correctly or they will derail," said Norris, whose own interest in trains started as a child growing up in an English railroading town.

Some areas are still under construction, but the elaborate carnival with moving swings, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and midway games now has an elevated monorail.

There is also a new Harry Potter backdrop with a castle.

The club spent five months last year relocating to its present home on Nelson Street.

It took about five truckloads to move all of the tracks and materials, including 85 engines and 320 model buildings, to the new building.

There is a lot of interest in trains in Franklin County, largely because the railroad was a staple of the region for decades. The Cumberland Valley Railroad originated in 1835 and operated until 1919, when it was absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club will hold open houses from noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 8, 15 and 22 at 440 Nelson St.

Admission is free. The club will raffle off several train sets Dec. 22.

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