Pa. model railroad layout draws hundreds

December 27, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Many families have the holiday custom of placing a train set around their Christmas tree.

There seemed to be enough trains, tracks and cars Saturday on Nelson Street to circle an entire block.

That location was the home of an open house hosted by the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club, where hundreds of people of all ages poured in to see the meticulously crafted layouts created by club members.

It was the third of five open houses that will be held during the holiday season, which features 5,000 pieces of equipment, club treasurer Harold Gabler said.

"It's the holidays and this is what it's all about," Barry Elser said. "It's nice to see all of the kids. You have to get them interested sometime. For me, I've just had a love of the hobby in some form or another for all my life."


Elser, 70, is a new member of the club, which has about 30 active participants.

President John Norris and his wife, Susan, have been involved since the club was established 11 years ago.

Susan Norris, the club's secretary, created the N-gauge layout that greeted guests at the door Saturday, the same display that is the top prize of a raffle that will benefit the club.

"That's the seventh one I've done. It takes me about a week and a half, maybe about three or four hours a day. ... Just whenever I can find time to fit it in," said Susan Norris, who was born in England and immigrated to North America with John 18 years ago. "People ask me how I get ideas for my layouts and a lot of them come from my English history."

No two layouts are the same, with members having their own creative touch. Among the themes were a renaissance fair, amusement parks, ski slopes, a horse farm, a 1950s night scene and prehistoric life. There also were Lego and Thomas the Tank Engine layouts to attract children.

The largest is the O-gauge layout that runs along the west wall of the club's headquarters. John Norris said the layout is nearly 80 feet long with "probably 150 cars" on five trains. There also were models dating back almost 100 years, though the focus of the layouts primarily was based on the holidays.

"That's kind of the main thing, it's for Christmas shows," John Norris said. "We don't worry much with what trains we use. We just like to make the lights bright for all the kids that come in."

Children made up close to half of the visitors, many of whom had grandparents with an interest in model trains.

"It's the kids and us old folks," said Gabler, 73. "It can be for anyone, people of any age."

The remaining open houses will be Saturday, Jan. 3, and Sunday, Jan. 11, with both shows running from noon to 5 p.m. The raffle, which awards three prizes, will be at the end of the Jan. 11 show.

If you go

What: Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club open houses

When: Saturday, Jan. 3, and Sunday, Jan. 11, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club, 440 Nelson St., Chambersburg, Pa.

Admission: Free

Call Bill Robinson at 717-264-3081 or 717-263-6447 or go to

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