Mid-Mon Valley Railroad Club warms its engines for annual holiday display

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

Miniature trains will once again chug through Mid-Mon Valley communities this upcoming yule season.

The Mid-Mon Valley Model Railroad Club is warming its engines for its traditional holiday display, when model trains will pass through realistic replicas of Mid-Mon Valley towns in their heydays. The display will be open Saturdays and Sundays, starting tomorrow, through Jan. 6.

The HO-scale railroad exhibit is at 159 Main St., New Eagle, on the second floor of the New Eagle Borough Building. The two-level layout features four trains that run simultaneously through three rooms, with a fourth room that houses a spiral configuration so trains can travel from one level to the other.

Susan Werner, secretary/treasurer of the club, said the exact placement of some structures in the displays, such as steel mills and power plants, may not be geographically accurate, but they give a sense of what was happening industrially in the area.

“The whole idea is a flashback in history,” said Werner of Rostraver. “The display depicts a sense of what was here and how things operated. When kids want to know what a strip mine or a brick coke oven or a mine shaft looks like, we can say, ‘We have one.'”

Werner said the layout is controlled by a DCC (Digital Command Control) system that allows the club to control each locomotive separately and move them in different directions on the same piece of track.

She said one engine is equipped with a small camera that transmits images so that visitors can watch via television the train's movement from a conductor's perspective.

Most of the trains are owned by the club members.

Werner said the club plans to re-paint the walls in the display rooms and install a trolley line. “I can't promise the trolley line will be up and running in time for the Christmas show,” she said.

Werner said the holiday display is especially popular with families with children.

“We also get a lot of out-of-town people who come to spend the holidays with families and are looking for something else to do in the area,” she said.

Founded in 1986, the Mid-Mon Valley Model Railroad Club is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Monongahela Valley Railroad Historical Society. All members belong to the National Model Railroad Association.

Werner said she has been a model-train enthusiast since early childhood, but at that time, the train hobby was frowned upon for little girls.

“When I was about 21 or 22, I went to a hobby show,” she said. “I was hooked!”

The club is open from novices to advanced modelers age 18 and older. Werner said junior members starting at age 10 are welcome, provided they have an adult sponsor.

“Junior members need a sponsor to keep them involved,” said Werner. “We‘re here to learn and share from others and they need a sponsor to make sure they take part appropriately in the activities.”

Meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays.

The club also displays its traveling modular layout at area events such as the August Fun Fest in Cedar Creek Park.

There is no set admission price for the holiday train display; but donations are accepted.

The club will also partner with the New Eagle Volunteer Fire Department to hold an annual Train Show and Sale on Jan. 27.

At the event, visitors can observe the modular displays with running trains. Classes will also be available on various model-railroading topics.

Colleen Pollock is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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