Model train club has rebuilt after fire; displays are open to the public
Model toy trains continue to be a timeless staple for many boys and girls during the holiday season. For some, it transforms into a lifetime hobby, one that dates back to the 1800s.
Moving from Ocean View to a new home in Dagsboro, the Delaware SeaSide Railroad Club has not lost its momentum for sharing a passion for model railroading despite a fire that destroyed everything in 2011.
With the generous help of the community, the club has since rebuilt a number of model trains to entice all ages throughout the year to enjoy.
Club engineer John Hodges talks about model railroading and the club's history.
Your mission is to preserve and promote the history and hobby of model railroading. How far back does this hobby go and how are you getting the younger generations involved?
The first model railroading club goes back to 1910 in London, England. However, toy trains on tracks go back to the 1840s. These were fairly crude likenesses of the trains of the day.
Today, clubs like ours are mostly involved in providing displays of trains operating on portable or modular layouts. We are getting youngsters involved by offering junior memberships in the club.
Your organization currently has five operating train displays open for the public to view free of charge. Do you have any goals to expand and what would be your ideal/dream display if you are able design it?
We have filled our 200-square-foot space with operating layouts in five different gauges or scales of model trains. If we had double the space, we would expand and operate more trains at once, and make the trains travel through more extensive scenery.
We are currently in the design stages of a new HO display, which will begin construction by the spring of 2018.
If someone wants to get started on the fundamentals of building their own layout, do you offer classes and workshops and if so, how often? Is there a fee?
Most of what we offer, in the form of workshops for youth (schools, Scouts, etc.) are free of charge. This helps us satisfy our mission objectives. We have not done much in the way of open workshops for adults for some time, but we might be looking at that in the near future.
Since relocating to a new home after the fire, what are some developments that the club is proud of and excited to share?
Through the generosity of many folks in Sussex and Kent counties, we have been able to recover very well from the fire.
The donations in the form of trains make up a good share of the items we run routinely every week. Other donations of equipment have helped us raise funds to build new replacement displays.
We are particularly pleased that through those donations, we have created a considerable G gauge display. And our HO display which we recently sold was also built from donations of equipment.
How did your passion begin for model trains and displays?
Like nearly every member of our club, receiving a toy train set for a Christmas or a birthday present started a lifelong attraction. When I was growing up, large department stores routinely decorated elaborate displays in their store windows with lots of moving figures, like stuffed dogs that might balance a ball on its nose, etc.
A main ingredient in decorations during the late '40s and early '50s were electric toy trains. The fact that you could command the train to go slower or faster from the ‘remote’ transformer/controller was a fascinating concept; we never tired of it.
What do you enjoy the most about sharing this timeless craft with the public?
Seeing the eyes of someone 80 years old light up when you run a train that is nearly that old right in front of them. Of course, our layouts are also decorated with eye-catching scenery and action items that the public can set into motion with the push of a button, and these things also bring a smile to young and old alike.
However, I personally also get a lot of satisfaction in repairing these family heirlooms.
Twice a year you host train shows. For those who have never been to one, what can they expect to see and experience?
Train shows are often referred to as Train Meets by many in the hobby. The basic attraction for hobbyists is the opportunity to purchase that one item you’ve been looking for to own.
To the general public, there are always operating train layouts at our shows, but not all shows have layouts running trains, and there are generally fewer people there.
We attend a train show in York, Pennsylvania, twice a year that is hosted by the Eastern Division of the TCA (Train Collectors Association). There are six huge buildings at the York Expo Center (fairgrounds) and these buildings are literally filled with trains for sale.
Every major manufacturer of model and toy trains attends this show twice a year. Your eyes pop when you get a grasp of the sheer quantity of equipment displayed.
IF YOU GO
Delaware SeaSide Railroad Club
Where: 32442 Royal Blvd., Suite 1-A, Dagsboro
When: Wednesdays, from 5-8 p.m.; and Saturdays, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Info: http://www.delawareseasiderailroadclub.com or call 302-945-1627