Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maryland: Club brings model train displays to downtown Sykesville to keep tradition alive

From The Advocate: Club brings model train displays to downtown Sykesville to keep tradition alive
In 1992 Bruce Greenberg, founder of Greenberg Publishing Company, decided that he wanted to create some type of model railroad museum or display. Now, 19 years later, the railway club he dreamt up is still thriving with open houses on the first Sunday of each month in the heart of downtown Sykesville.

It started when Greenberg set up a model train display and advertisement at the Fall Festival in 1992, searching for volunteers to help him realize his goal of bringing a model train display to town.

Mark Bennett, who has lived in Sykesville for 20 years, saw that ad and signed up.

"Later, in the spring of 1993, I got a phone call [from Bruce] saying to bring some work gloves," Bennett said. "He got this train car, which was in Laurel at the time. It was going to the B&O Museum in Baltimore, but he made some phone calls and he had some friends at the museum, and Bruce was able to bring this car to town."

That year Greenberg, Bennett and other founding members began renovating the 1910 Pullman car, and the Sykesville and Patapsco Railway was born as a nonprofit, volunteer and donation based organization. It raises money by accepting donations at its monthly open houses.

The group did their best to patch up holes in the floor and walls of the old parlor car that once ran along the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad tracks. They started holding open houses as soon as they had displays inside the car.

"Our first year we had maybe 100 people come through," Bennett said. "Once we got it painted and it became really bright a few years later, everybody said, ‘Where did that come from?' Well, we had been here for a few years, but we were looking pretty ugly at the time."

Now, according to Bennett, the open houses draw 2,000 to 3,000 people to the model train displays each year.

The displays are set up next to the railroad tracks at Baldwin Station inside the 1910 Pullman car, as well as a neighboring red caboose that ran along the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and in the Baltimore and Potomac Tower building owned by the town of Sykesville. They have multiple types of model trains available for viewing, from small N-scale to larger G-Scale trains.

"We try to make the layout change over time so people can come to different open houses and see changes in the layouts," President of the club Jack Rodriguez said. "We'll do upgrades and change towns and locations. We try to do something new so everybody can come and see something different."

Rodriguez, 29, said he has been interested in trains and model trains since he was a kid.

"A lot of kids my age turned to video games instead of the actual, physical building of a train and building a model," Rodriguez said. "You don't see a lot of younger members joining. You see a lot of older members coming in because they enjoy getting to build something, getting to create something."

Like Rodriguez, most of the members of the club have been interested in trains since childhood.

"I grew up with trains too, and it's just something that's really neat," Secretary John Cottrell said. "For other people that come in it's something that you don't see that much anymore."

The Pullman car and the caboose that the trains are displayed in are owned by the town of Sykesville, and as part of their rent members of the club work on and maintain the cars.

They hope that their open houses can spark interest in new generations of train enthusiasts and attract visitors to the town of Sykesville.

"I think if anybody is even a little bit interested in trains, but doesn't know where to start, if they come here they'll find that lots of our members have their own displays at home and have a wealth of knowledge," Bennett said. "It's pretty remarkable to have a group of volunteers stay together for about 18 years now ... We're proud of what we've done."

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