For the fifth year, the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club is continuing to reach out to the community during the Christmas season to provide a free, traditional Christmas experience for those young and old.
Displaying five model trail layouts at the Georgetown Public Library, the club has invited local school children to take tours and enjoy the magic of trains.
“We do have a Thomas the Train display with two remote controls that the kids can operate themselves. We teach them how and let them operate it,” explained Bill Ziegler, publicity officer for the club. “It’s quite an adventure, especially when 60 school kids show up and they all want to do it!”
Part of the club’s mission is to promote and preserve the history of model railroading, which Ziegler said includes teaching kids about the hobby. This year, the club hosted 360 area kindergarten students at the library, in groups of 60, to allow them to experience the joy of model railroading.
“This is the biggest venture we’ve done with all the kindergartens,” he added.
The club has also worked to give private showings of the displays to area seniors and students at Howard T. Ennis School. But they’re also inviting the public in, as well.
The Seaside Railroad Club will have their displays open to the public at the Georgetown library this Saturday, Dec. 12, as well as Dec. 19 and Jan. 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The library display features a large O-gauge layout, with 24 operating push-button displays and a Thomas the Tank Engine layout.
Community members may also visit the club’s headquarters, at Clayton Crossing in Dagsboro, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 to 8 p.m.
The clubhouse features five displays, with an O-gauge Polar Express, S-, HO- and G- gauge layouts.
“We have a large S-gauge display that has scenes from Sussex County that includes the new Indian River Inlet Bridge, Punkin Chunkin, the Cannonball House in Lewes, Ocean View Deli, Seaside Hobbies and about a dozen others,” said Ziegler, noting the layout runs three trains and has an elevated track.
The G-gauge layout features Department 56 villages and a snowscape.
“So it’s a winter scene now,” said Ziegler, explaining that the layout is up year-round but changes in detail. “If somebody saw it in September, they’d come and see something different now.”
The club moved into their new home in the summer, after having lost their original home in the Georgetown Train Station to a fire. But with help from the community and a lot of work, they were able to find a new home in Dagsboro.
“The new space is working great,” Ziegler said. “Opening the clubhouse, we sought sponsors for it, and over 40 businesses in Sussex County have supported us as a sponsor, and donated money to us. That’s what helped fund the Clayton Crossing new clubhouse. We also received a grant from the Sussex County Council. We want to thank all our sponsors and Sussex County Council again for their support.”
In the spring, the club will be displaying its O-gauge layout at train shows in Seaford on Feb. 27 and Hartley on April 16, and its own show in Roxana on April 30.
Although the club’s community outreach shows are free to the public, they are always accepting donations, monetary or trains.
“We want to get out to the public and share model railroading and teach model railroading because so many people have done it when they were young, and then get back into it. They find an old set in their closet or attic, and they want to learn about it or get them working, and we can help them do that.”
Ziegler said the club currently has around 75 members and is always looking for more.
“We welcome new members at any time. Just come and have fun and play with their trains, or our trains,” he said. “They can do as little or as much as they want in any of the gauges. Our motto is, ‘All gauges, all fun.’”
Those who join simply need to have a love for model railroading.
“There tends to be a common thread of either retired or near-to-retired people, men and woman, who have an interest in trains and time to donate their efforts. They work with us so we can build all these different layouts without any large investment.
“It’s because we’re having fun and enjoying something we like to do and helping to continue the hobby of model railroading. If it doesn’t have people who stay active in it and love it, it will just go away, and then we’d lose a piece of history… Preserving history, toy trains and railroading, current and past times.”
The Georgetown Public Library is located at 123 West Pine Street in Georgetown.
The Delaware Seaside Railroad Club at Clayton Crossing is located at the intersection of Route 113 and Route 26, 32442 Royal Boulevard, in Dagsboro. For more information about the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club, visit www.delawareseasiderailroadclub.com. The club can also be found on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/Delaware-Seaside-Railroad-Club-133660799984654.