Museum honors history of trains

December 18, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

HAGERSTOWN - Dylan Cree sat in the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Friday with his eyes and mouth open, but with his ears covered.

Dylan, 2, was one of many who came to the museum Friday to watch and hear The Trains of Christmas, an annual display put on by the museum to show off trains of Christmas past and present.

"We do it mainly to see the expression on a young child's face," said Harry E. Myers Jr., one of the display's "conductors."


Trains streaked around tracks on three different levels of the display's model town, which included a 1950s McDonald's, a post office and a ski resort up the mountain.

"The detail is great," said Dylan's father Jeff Cree, who said he built a display for his son in their home in Fayetteville, N.C.

"He is fascinated with trains," Cree said.

William L. Knode, who was operating 12 of the 22 trains in the display, said a love of trains is the reason he has worked on The Trains of Christmas since it began in 1990.

The display is meant to represent the history of trains since 1920, and has models of at least five different companies.

"This is the type of display we wanted as kids, but could never have," said Knode, a self-described train addict.

Knode, Myers and Blaine Snyder operated the display, which at times required the assistance of the "local" fire department.

During the "fire scene," figures emerged from a train station fire and called for help. Each time, the model firetruck was quick to respond from the nearby station and successfully extinguished the fire.

"We want to put on a show and entertain," Knode said. "We especially like for the kids to enjoy it."

Rebecca Graff, 11, said she was enjoying her first time at the display.

"I think (running that) would be fun," she said, although she admitted that she might need more experience.

The conductors themselves had a few problems operating the massive display.

One train had to be forced out of use temporarily, while Myers ran to a nearby shop to repair a wheel base on one of its cars.

"We have enough trouble getting these trains running with two on a track, let alone a whole railroad," said Myers, whose father was a conductor for the Western Maryland Railroad. "These models are just like the real things, with the same operating problems."

Snyder agreed, saying that running the display was not rocket science, but close to it.

The conductors agreed that the 3,000 hours they took in setting up this year's display was for more than just entertainment value.

Myers said the display is a way to try and promote trains, independent of films such as "The Polar Express," which might be the only exposure to younger generations.

"There used to be trains on every street when I grew up," Knode said. "Most kids don't have the exposure I did."

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