Monday, December 19, 2011

Models raise interest in train museum

From Rocky Mount Telegram: Models raise interest in train museum
Model train sets are being displayed at the Golden East Crossing mall by a group of volunteers who are trying to develop a permanent railroad museum.

The display, which is in a glass enclosure along the corridor leading up to Ross, includes three train set displays that were donated by Rocky Mount residents.

The goal of the display is to whet residents’ appetites for a new permanent model train museum and solicit funds and support for it.

Displayed on the exhibit glass is a brochure urging residents to donate money, time or train artifacts to a nonprofit organization that has been formed to develop the new Rocky Mount Railroad Museum.

Joyce Dantzler, the president of the citizen’s committee that has been formed to develop the museum, said she has fond memories of the railroad industry in Rocky Mount as her father worked for it.

“He started with Atlantic Coastline. Then it became Seaboard Coastline,” she said. “When he retired, he was a fireman for Amtrak.

Dantzler said the museum will seek to inform.

“We are trying to educate the community about the history of the railroad here in Rocky Mount, how beneficial it was,” Dantzler said. “We also hope to direct people who are interested into jobs working for the railroad, maybe to CSX.”

A museum brochure states that the plans call for a gift shop for railroad products, individual display spaces for model trains, memorabilia and artifacts, a learning lab for classroom instruction, kiosks with information about careers in the railroad industry, a conference room for meetings and celebrations and an interactive children’s learning lab with various train collections.

“We hope to have an area in which people can have celebrations,” Dantzler said. “Maybe children on their birthdays could go to railroad museum, like Chuck E. Cheese’s. These are all goals and objectives we have. They are down the line.”

The volunteers were eyeing space for the new museum in the Bel Air Artisans Center in downtown Rocky Mount, but they decided against that due to the cost of renovating the space.

Plus, the volunteers would prefer a building that is owned by the museum, said Gene Pridgen, vice president of the citizen’s committee trying to get the museum off the ground.

“The fact that (the space in the artisans center) would never be ours (was a concern),” he said. “It would be rented, and someone might come along later and say, “We don’t want you here any more.’ After spending all that money, we would have to get out. So we would rather start on our own and own something small and build into it.”

This is the second time that mall management has allowed the museum advocates to use space to promote the new museum concept.

“We are moving along slowly, taking baby steps if you will,” Pridgen said.

Over the summer, the volunteers set up a couple of tables to promote the train museum.

“We gave out pamphlets to see if there was any interest in (the museum),” Pridgen said. “To our amazement, there was. We approached the mall about putting (train displays) up over the holidays. They agreed to do it.”

Architect Bill Dove donated one of his model train sets for the mall exhibit.

Dove said he hopes that the new museum inspires young people to get into model train building.

“It may get kids back interested in building something with their own hands,” he said. “Kids are spending too much time playing on the Internet and not doing anything for themselves. As they get older, they’ll need some method for relaxation, and model building was one of mine.”

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