Trains cruise into the station of Pa. railroad club

December 20, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The train under the Christmas tree might not be as common a sight as it was in the 20th century, but fans of model railroading can recapture that fascination this holiday season with a trip to the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club headquarters at 440 Nelson St.

What was a warehouse has been transformed over the past three years into a miniature world where locomotives pull passenger, freight, coal and flatbed cars through towns, villages and valleys with red cabooses bringing up the rear.

There are 30 scale miles of "HO" track running through the clubhouse and another six scale miles of "O" track, along with smaller layouts for "N" and standard-gauge trains, according to club Vice President Bill Robinson.


"Standard gauge is back from the '20s and '30s," said Robinson, who added that it is so valuable now that it is rarely seen actually running.

Built by Lionel, Ives and American Flyer among others, standard gauge is known as "tinplate" among collectors because of its all-metal construction, according to club member John Stamm. It also is finely detailed, as he demonstrated with a passenger car in which the commode seats lift.

"These big fellows were the toys of well-to-do kids," Stamm said.

The club's Christmas open house continues Sunday, Dec. 26, Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, from noon to 5 p.m., Robinson said.

Robinson said a large "G"-gauge layout, donated by Jack Baughman of Hagerstown, will be part of the display.

Not all the circling trains are antiques. Replicas of modern high-speed passenger trains also were making endless loops through the imaginary world and a train made of LEGO blocks rambled through a LEGO village.

Trains also ran through a Christmas scene, Jurassic Park and the world of Harry Potter, all landscapes created by Susan Norris, the club secretary and wife of President John Norris. She also created a 7-by-4-foot HO layout that is being raffled off as the top prize during the open house, Robinson said.

A native of Great Britain, John Norris said model railroaders take the hobby as seriously in that country - where trains were invented - as in the United States, although the traditional Christmas connection is "an American phenomenon."

Model railroading is now primarily an adult hobby, but plenty of wide-eyed youngsters were in Sunday's crowd, including Andrew and Kyle Houston of Rockville, Md., who attended the show with their grandfather, John Comerer of Chambersburg.

"These boys are train fanatics, so I thought I'd bring them down here," Comerer said. "As long as it is their joy, it's my joy."

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