SHARPSBURG — While winter winds whipped outside on a cold day Sunday, young children scurried about in the warmth of an old train station, their imaginations stirred by toy trains passing by.
The trains ran on a massive layout in an old freight room in the station, which also acted as a primer on local history. Civil War veterans used to make a regular pilgrimage to the building as part of a Battle of Antietam reunion.
It was the second Christmas open house at the Antietam train station along Sharpsburg Pike, which was organized by Hagerstown Model Railroad Museum Inc. at Antietam Station.
The group is a nonprofit organization that continues to build on train layouts in the station and has hopes of expanding the times the museum is open during the year.
“We love it. It’s so child-friendly,” said Susan Foiles of Houston, who was visiting the museum Sunday with members of her family, which included small children.
The local model railroad club has had the building for about 10 years and club members have been restoring it. Most recently, club members have been restoring one of the rooms in the station by sanding and refinishing the room’s “tough” wooden floors. They also painted and installed new light fixtures.
There used to be a model train layout in the freight room, but it was dismantled and club members started working on a permanent layout.
Joe Caha, secretary of the club, showed off the new layout Sunday, pointing out detailed sections that stretch across a wooden support system.
The layout has two levels, with the upper level dedicated to “HO”-scale trains and the lower level set aside for “O”-scale trains.
Work is ongoing, like a mountain that will be constructed, Caha said.
“We’re kinda going for the country scene,” Caha said.
To help pay for ongoing work in the museum, the club is selling model railroad items. People have donated old electric train sets and other model railroad pieces to the club, Caha said. If the club cannot use any of the items in its layouts, it sells them, Caha said.
Old train sets, model train cars, old model railroad buildings and other items were displayed for sale across part of the layout in the freight room Sunday.
Sunday was the first day of the club’s Christmas open house. The station is scheduled to be open every Sunday through the end of January from 1 to 5 p.m., Caha said.
Club members also are planning to sell train parts during a railroad flea market on Feb. 12 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center along Sharpsburg Pike, Caha said.
Although club members are not at the point where they can keep the museum open all winter long, the long-term goal is to build it into an attraction that can be open for a longer period of time, extending into the summer and fall, Caha said.
Among the challenging issues is heating the old building, which can be expensive, Caha said.
“We just have to take little steps,” said Bill Wellman, another member of the club.
After the Battle of Antietam, Civil War veterans used to take the train to the station for a reunion in memory of the battle. As local legend goes, the veterans planted trees along either side of Sharpsburg Pike leading into town, a design that still holds true in town today.
The station, which followed a smaller one that burned down, opened in 1911. It was closed in the 1950s and at one time, railroad crews started to tear it down.
But the demolition crews did not have the correct permit for the work and the building was converted into apartments in the 1960s, club members said.
For more information about the museum, go to the club’s website at http://antietamstation.com.