Miniature Ligonier Valley Rail Road featured in model train tour
The Ligonier Valley Rail Road is rolling over the track once more — in railroad historian and hobbyist Bob Stutzman’s Latrobe basement.
The original railroad operated from 1877 to 1952, hauling freight and passengers 16 miles between Ligonier and Latrobe. Stutzman’s scaled-down version, featuring O-gauge cars that are 1⁄48 as large, makes that trip across the 22-foot length of his model layout.
At just 10 feet deep, Stutzman’s layout makes a virtue out of its confined quarters. Its single track loops three times through scenery on two levels, allowing space for three other trains to run simultaneously with his LVRR replica.
“Whatever you can dream, you can do,” he said. “You don’t need a giant space or room.”
Visitors can explore his miniature creation during the LVRR Model Rail Road Tour, slated for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 18. Registration and ticket orders are required by Saturday for the tour that features five other individual layouts as well as multiple displays in Latrobe’s Huber Hall.
Stutzman penned a 2014 book about the LVRR and is a founder and former president of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association, which organizes the tour and operates a museum in the Ligonier Township village of Darlington. Once he stepped back from a leading role in the organization, in 2017, he was able to spend more time enjoying the model railroad hobby that first fascinated him as a boy in Ligonier.
He enhanced his LVRR diorama, represented on the top level of his layout. “I embellished it with a Ferris wheel and some fireworks,” he said, representing the amusements at Idlewild Park.
The “Ligonier” side of the display features the facade of a train station reminiscent of the full-scale one that still stands in the town, now housing the Ligonier Valley School District’s administrative offices. The “Latrobe” side is dominated by a brewery, one of that town’s distinctive businesses.
Spanning anywhere from the 1950s to the 1970s in style, the lower section of Stutzman’s layout is a combination of scenery and vignettes that struck his fancy.
A town scene includes an ice cream shop where a proud owner shows off his new muscle car. Nearby is a gas station inspired by one from Stutzman’s youth.
Atop several buildings, animated billboards reminiscent of vintage neon signs advertise products ranging from Wonder Bread to Sherwin-Williams paint and Clark candy bars.
To inject a lighthearted touch, Stutzman added a display to the “back 40” of his layout’s farm scene. The farmer is locked in a tug-of-war with a UFO, struggling to keep one of his cows from being sucked into the alien spacecraft.
Ralph Shearer and his wife, Joanna, like Stutzman, are first-time participants in the annual model train tour. They’ve assembled twin layouts in their Derry Township home that combine a nostalgic appeal for adults with novel elements designed to engage children.
“We started two years ago, for something to do in the wintertime,” he said.
The scenery was inspired by Ralph Shearer’s memories of growing up in rural Conemaugh Township, in Indiana County. “Being a farm boy, I remember my grandfather’s barn with the old farm machinery in front,” he said.
He painted another barn with the familiar “Chew Mail Pouch” advertising slogan for tobacco. Other scenes in the couple’s G-gauge (1⁄32 scale or larger) train layout include Amish farm workers and a one-room schoolhouse.
A second layout includes a section in HO-gauge, which is half the size of O-gauge, and another in the even smaller N-gauge.
Bedford’s coffee pot-shaped roadside attraction is represented. Overlooking the scene from high above are rangers in a fire tower Shearer crafted from scratch.
Shearer hopes children will be delighted by his Christmas-themed train and a circus train, imported from Germany. A magician creates a stream of bubbles in one of the circus cars.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .