Veteran trainman Mike Luke sets up display to benefit community partnership

| Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

Model trains and Christmas have had a compatible relationship for generations, Barbara Klukan says.

She and fellow members of the new Ford City Renaissance Community Partnership want to do their part in continuing that tradition by hosting the display of veteran model trainman Mike Luke for the holidays.

The display opened Saturday and continues through Dec. 30 in the former location of Lindy's Coffee and Candy shop along Ford Street in the borough. (Lindy's now is along Fifth Street)

A train display is not just for enthusiasts, she says, but also is a family activity that creates fascination for everyone, especially the children. "Everyone should be cherishing and enjoying quality family time together during this Christmas season," Klukan says. "If this inaugural display can begin to form lasting memories for generations to come in our own community, then it has created the magic that is intended."

We remain fascinated with trains in this high-tech era, she says, because a model-train display creates "a magical escape to a simpler time," reconnecting many with the best days of the best years of their childhoods.

In busy, modern life, she says, a train display still can bring families and a community together, "to take a break from Tweets and Facebook posts and the iPhone."

"Rail is a primary source of transportation and a reminder of bygone times," Luke says.

This is the Kittanning resident's fourth location for his train display through the years. "As always, I do it for the kids, to help others and give my mind something to do," he says.

The Ford City Partnership is pleased to have him, says Klukan, who adds Luke sets a strong example of community volunteerism. "I have seen him beam in delight in the set-up and display of his model trains. His true passion and love for the hobby make him the perfect match in creating some holiday magic in Ford City."

She hopes this will be an annual display. "Many volunteers have stepped up to help with the effort," Klukan says.

"I was told last year I'm getting too old to crawl around the floor, but guess who crawled around under the table wiring things up," Luke says, chuckling. The display platform is 26 inches off the floor, built especially for the show.

Visitors are greeted with a carnival scene in the window area. An N-gauge train circles the street fair and its carousel, pirate-ship ride, rotary swings, games of chance and a kiddie train ride.

Buildings and lighted ceramic houses are part of the scenery. The trains are mostly Lionel and compatible models, plus a trolley and a gangcar. Passenger and freight, diesel, steam and electric trains are represented. A 190-inch tunnel structure with arches in the front allows spectators to see the train move through.

"As always, I have sidings that can be used for set-up and to store my trains while someone else is running on the main line," he says.

Klukan is impressed.

"Mike glows during his shows, and visitors can sense his genuine enthusiasm," she says.

Additional Information:

At a glance

Ford City train display

When: Through Dec. 30. 6-9 p.m. Friday and Dec. 2, 9, 16, Dec. 19-23 and 26-30;

2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18

Where: 421 Ford St., Ford City

Admission: Donations will benefit Ford City Renaissance Community Partnership

Details: 724-545-1994

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