Thursday, June 28, 2012

Model train layout at Schuylkill Mall shows time when coal was king

From Republican Herald:  Model train layout at Schuylkill Mall shows time when coal was king

FRACKVILLE - A 5-year-old boy was fixated by the train as it rounded the track.
The boy, Gavin Pabst, Egg Harbor City, N.J., was one of several people who stopped to admire the trains on the 26-foot by 55-foot display inside the Schuylkill Mall on Sunday.
"The layout is loosely based from Mahanoy City to Ashland," said Wally Fetterolf Jr., a member of the North Schuylkill High Railers, a group of railroad enthusiasts.
Ten members of the group maintain the tracks, O Gauge trains and layout. It took owner Joseph Webber and others 2 1/2 years to build the layout, Fetterolf said.
Replicas of individual borough structures are stops along the three-rail track. A Catholic church in Maizeville, a replica of the Mahanoy Plane and the mansion of the Kaier Brewery in Mahanoy City are some of the features.
"It's actually a bed-and-breakfast right now. It's on the main street in Mahanoy City," Fetterolf said of the mansion.
There is even a replica of the Pioneer Colliery in Ashland.
The layout of the set is from about 1925, he said, one of the booming years for the coal industry.
The nine trains and three trolleys are run by remote control.
One locomotive carries 25 coal cars. Many of the trains carry coal "because that was the main traffic in the area," Fetterolf said. Other freight cars carry small twigs to look like lumber.
The layout has been at the mall for 12 years, but the group has been displaying it for five, Fetterolf said.
"The agreement was $1 a year," Fetterolf said. He owns most of the trains that run on the tracks. Other members own the rest.
Keeping the trains and set in working order takes time, he said.
"It's a never ending process to keep it running," he said.
A scrubber like device is used to clean the dirt and other substances from the track on a weekly basis. Routine maintenance is also done on the locomotives and cars as needed, he said.
Dave Cruikshank, 51, of Reading, another volunteer, said he enjoys the time he spends with the display.
"Everybody likes trains," he said.
"I think it's pretty neat. They did a good job with it," said John Pabst, father of Gavin.
He said his son loves trains.
The group is seeking those who want to volunteer and learn more about trains. Those interested can call Fetterolf at 570-205-6275 or visit the Facebook page of the group at North Schuylkill High Railers. More information is available at
Hours for the display are from noon to 5 p.m. every other Sunday. Cost is $1


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