Train layout brings joy to all ages

November 23, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

They are grown men playing with toys.

Those toys, model trains, remind them of childhoods spent watching the big trains like the Western Maryland Railway chug by their neighborhoods.

The model trains they play with bring joy not only to their faces, but to those of the thousands of children and adults who stop by each holiday season to see the large winter train layout at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum.

The hours of detailed work it takes to set up the huge layout are worth it when they hear the children's oohs and ahhhs and see their eyes light up, John Dawson says.


"I've even seen that in some of the older men," says Dawson, 66, who grew up two blocks from railroad tracks and still lives in the West End.

Dawson is one of at least 11 museum members who will have spent more than 1,000 hours setting up the layout, which opens tomorrow and runs through Sunday, Feb. 25.

The museum's members have set up a Trains of Christmas display since the museum opened in 1990, making it larger about 10 years ago when they tore down a wall, says Bill Knode, 73, of Hagerstown.

The 12-foot by 30-foot layout is four levels deep and consists of 1,000 feet of track with 50 switches, 1,000 feet of wire and 23 O-gauge trains. Back will be the red and silver diesel Santa Fe Super Chief, a favorite of local children because it's shiny and its horn is a sequence of tones, Knode says.

New features this year include a model of the Empire State Building and other buildings donated by Demory's Christmas Memories.

Roundhouse members Dawson, Knode, Blaine Snyder of the Cearfoss area, Harry Meyers of Williamsport, Bill Barnes of Mercersburg, Pa., and Bill Gangloff of Hancock lent their trains to the exhibit. Barnes also lent his classic firetruck collection.

"It's our fantasy railroad," Knode says. When they were kids they wanted a train layout like this and "it took this long to have it."

If you go ...

WHAT: Trains of Christmas

WHEN: 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Friday, Nov. 24, to Sunday, Feb. 25. Also open Tuesday, Dec. 26. Closed Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

WHERE: Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, 300 S. Burhans Blvd., Hagerstown

COST: $4, adults; 50 cents, ages 12 and younger

MORE: Call 301-739-4665.

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