Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas model railroad display a lesson in history of 1940s- era

From Republican-Herald:  Christmas model railroad display a lesson in history of 1940s- era

The Christmas trains are running on time in the Hazleton area, and the conductor is calling, "All aboard!"
The trains are owned and operated by members of the Anthracite Model Railroad Club, which is hosting its annual holiday open house at the club headquarters, 1057 Hanover Court, Hazle Township, weekends through Jan. 6.
The trains are HO model rail cars that travel continuously past detailed replicas of 1940s-era Greater Hazleton over more than 1,000 feet of hand-laid track.
Visitors who enter the clubhouse step into a magical, miniature world of villages along rivers and railways covering hundreds of miles of terrain, all depicted in meticulous detail and contained within a building that formerly housed a bakery.
The first community visitors see is Jim Thorpe as it appeared about 75 years ago, with the twin mansions owned by coal and railroad moguls Asa and Harry Packer. The mansions are perched on a hillside overlooking the Jersey Central Train Station and other landmark buildings in old Mauch Chunk.
Chugging into the tiny, but authentically re-created town, is one of eight model locomotives that move through the communities, rail yards and colliery patch towns that lie along the pike.
Each home along the track, along with the mountains, bridges, creeks and rivers along the railway were hand-built by members of the club. Each of the hundreds of tiny people, pets and livestock that populate the scenery were hand-painted.
"It's a labor of love, really," said Joe Deluca, railroad club secretary.
Model railroading is an old-fashioned hobby, but it hasn't been forgotten by modern technology. Some of today's HO trains have programmable on-board computers that keep them traveling on their pre-determined course. Others can generate sound effects that mimic authentic rail sounds.
Club members also used modern technology to create a working drive-in movie theater with a mini DVD player embedded into the scenery and painted to resemble an old-fashioned outdoor screen. The drive-in is showing classic Christmas movies this time of year.
The trains travel past Cedar, Wyoming, Laurel and Church streets, and by businesses such as Caputo's Ice Plant, the Markle Bank and Trust building, Price's Dairy, Deisroth's and the Blue Comet Diner, as working railroad crossing gates lower across the roadways when the train-crossing lights begin flashing.
Some say model trains and Christmas have a historical connection because the first regularly scheduled passenger train in the U.S. began in 1830 on Christmas Day. Others say the tradition of trains at Christmas dates to the 1940s when railroads helped bring thousands of American servicemen home for the holidays.
Regardless of how the tradition began, the sight of a model train circling a Christmas tree, or traveling eight at a time around a miniature pike at the Anthracite Model Railroad Club, is a delight to children and a source of sweet memories for adults


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