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Trainfest sale and show benefits Sharpsburg station project

November 29, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- It's the sight of a train chugging around a Christmas tree that is an enduring image of the holiday season.

But for Robert Stepanak, trains decorate his Hagerstown home 365 days a year.

Step into his basement and you'll discover the Pennsylvania rail yards of his youth.

There are small docking stations with industry signs named for family and friends. There are tunnels, crossovers and bridges, trestles and loops and more than 100 track switches.

A model train enthusiast for the past 50 years, some people might think Stepanak's collection would be complete.

They'd be wrong.

"I can always find something else to buy," he said.

That's why Stepanak decided to attend Trainfest, an annual show sponsored by the Hagerstown Model Railroad Museum.

"This is a great place to find unusual items," he said.

The event, held Saturday at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center, annually draws dozens of vendors and hundreds of model-train enthusiasts from across the area.

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The museum has organized the event for several years to raise money for Antietam Station, a historic rail station in Sharpsburg.

A frame station opened in Sharpsburg during the 1800s and operated until it was destroyed by a fire in 1910. It was rebuilt in 1911 by the Norfolk & Western Railroad and named Antietam Station.

The structure was rescued from demolition in 1993. Several years later, the Town of Sharpsburg agreed to lease the station at virtually no expense to the museum group.

"After lots of hard work, we opened in September for Sharpsburg Heritage Days," museum President Frank Schaller said.

The museum, which features train layouts and memorabilia, also will be open Dec. 28 and each Sunday in January from 1 to 5 p.m. with an admission fee.

"Most of the restoration work has been completed," Schaller said. "But there are still a few things that need to be done, and the proceeds from the Trainfest will be put to good use."

James Winters of Hagerstown was among those who arrived early for Saturday's Trainfest.

Accompanied by his wife, Barbara ,and their two grandchildren, Winters said he received a train set for his first Christmas in 1945.

Winters still owns that set, he said, along with a 1955 train set.

Winters said he recently had his trains appraised, but admitted he never would part with them.

"My grandson loves trains, so I'm planning on keeping them for him," he said.

Winters said he grew up in the south end of Hagerstown and played around the railroad tracks near City Park.

"Trains have been a part of my history," he said. "I love coming to shows like this. It brings back a lot of memories."

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