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Rail fans -- big and little -- choo-choo-choose Heritage Days fun

June 11, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN

"Choo-choos. Choo-choos," echoed Emily Konecny as she watched the four trains of an O-gauge layout whiz by.

The 17-month-old simply stated why hundreds of people stopped by the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum and Hagerstown Railroad Museum Saturday to celebrate Railroad Heritage Days.

The reason? Choo-choos.

Emily's mother, Stephanie Konecny, was visiting Hagerstown from California, Md., because her husband was doing business in the area. Konecny heard about Railroad Heritage Days and decided to take Emily and her 4-year-old twins, Alexander and Elizabeth.

"I think they love it," Stephanie Konecny said. "We have been here one or two hours already."

Activities, which occurred both inside the Roundhouse Museum and outdoors, included locomotive, caboose and trolley tours; train layouts for children to run; large operational HO- and O-gauge models for viewing; a riding train for small children; railroad equipment displays and a number of vending booths. Dwight Jones, author of Caboose books, and Justin Mayhue, author of Hagerstown firefighting books, were scheduled to appear for book signings.

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Crystal Sprecher, chairwoman of Railroad Heritage Days, said the purpose of the event is threefold - bring back the heritage of the railroad, promote railroad safety and provide fun for all ages.

"I thinks it's mostly about kids and the equipment," Sprecher said. "They actually get to climb on the locomotive, tour the caboose and run a scale layout. They love to climb up in 132 and blow the horn."

Chad Sweigert, 32, of Funkstown, talked inside the museum as his son, Luke Sweigert, 5, operated a train, making it stop and go, stop and go ...

"He (Luke) has a McDonald's train, 30 to 40 Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs and at least 100 Thomas characters," Chad Sweigert said. "He's quite the enthusiast."

It's not only children who are drawn to train equipment. Jim Young, 64, who took his grandson, Donald Eugene Dintaman, 2, to the event, said he likes trains at least as much as his grandson does.

"I'm just a poor mechanical/electrical engineer," Young said. "I like big things."

David Dice of Greencastle, Pa., said his whole family loves trains. He attended the event with his wife, Laura and his children, William, 14, Rebecca, 10, and Sarah, 7.

Rebecca said she especially liked the layout with McDonald's, Tootsie Roll and Life Savers cars. Sarah said she enjoyed operating the train and blowing the whistle.

"It all interests me," William said. "I wouldn't really name one thing because I like everything here."

Betsy and Michael Mummer of State Line, Pa., said after taking their sons, Matthew, 6, and Nathanael, 3, to the event last year, they made sure to return this year.

"This is all really hands-on and the kids are in awe," Betsy Mummer said. "And there are really nice people here, so we want to do anything we can to support them."

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