After years of searching, the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club has finally found a place to call home.
“It’s wonderful because it’s ours,” said club member Bill Ziegler of the club’s new home. “We can do what we want to enhance the club and get out to the public with it. That’s what we had in the Georgetown Train Station for about six years. When we lost that, we stored everything in a garage.”
The club was formed in 2003, after a small group of local model-train hobbyists interacted at a local hobby shop. The club eventually found a home in the historic Georgetown Train Station. However, a devastating fire in May 2011 left the group again without a home, until now.
“We were homeless. … It took us away from the public, basically, by not having a home,” Ziegler said. “The sadness we had, that we literally had nowhere to go with all these layouts — so it set us back several years.”
After years of searching for a new location, the club is now housed in a storefront in Clayton Crossing in Dagsboro, just south of Royal Farms.
“We’ve been looking. We’ve been talking to anybody we could talk to … for four years now, and we found the spot about four months ago,” said Ziegler. “It fit our needs. It was large enough.”
To celebrate their new home, the club is holding a grand opening Saturday, July 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and inviting the public to visit and see what they have to offer.
“We get our fun out of playing with trains, but sharing it with other people … the experience, the fun, the visuals, the sounds… It’s a hobby I’ve had most of my adult life, and joining the club just brought it out of a new aspect of train collecting,” said Ziegler, noting it wasn’t just him in his living room anymore, but being with others on a big layout.
The new location will house five train layouts — an S-gauge, an HO-gauge, a G-gauge and two O-gauges, one of which will be a Thomas the Train layout.
“We have a 3.5-by-6 Thomas the train layout, which kids love, and they can operate it with remote control. We’ll teach ’em how to do that when they come in.”
The new location also has a workshop where the club plans to teach model railroading classes to both youth and adults.
For those who cannot attend the grand opening, the club will be open on Wednesdays, 5 to 8 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Labor Day. Although visiting the location is free, donations are always welcome.
“We’re permanent. We can set our stuff up permanently. People know where we are, so they can come to see us.”
Ziegler said the club’s new home would not be a reality without the generous support of community sponsors.
“We want to thank our sponsors who helped us with this new endeavor. We couldn’t do this without them,” he said, adding that the club is still seeking sponsors and will even accept donations of old trains. “We welcome any donations of trains if somebody has them and doesn’t want to keep them.”
The mission of the 501(c)(3) non-profit, which currently has approximately 62 members, is to “promote and preserve the history and hobby of model railroading.”
“People love model trains. Young kids like them when they’re exposed to them… Older people remember sets they had, and it brings back great memories, around the Christmas tree,” said Ziegler. “There’s just a lot of … nostalgia around railroads. And this is a place where our members and the general public can see the trains,” and one where the club’s own members can run their own trains if they don’t have room at home.
Every year, the club holds two train show fundraisers. The next will be on Sept. 26 at the Roxana Fire Hall. They also have displays in the historic Selbyville train station and at the Delaware State Archives. During the holiday season, the club sets up displays throughout the county, including at the Seaford Museum, Georgetown Cheer Center and the Georgetown Public Library. The club also does educational outreach to area school children.
The group currently meets at the South Coastal Library on the second Tuesday of every month, except in the summertime, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Ziegler said the club members hope the public will take the opportunity to enjoy model railroading by visiting their new location.
“Now we have a place. It just opens it up for people to see what we have to offer.”
The Delaware Seaside Railroad Club is located at Clayton Crossing, 32422 Royal Boulevard, in Dagsboro, near the corner of Route 113 and Clayton Street. Entrance to Clayton Crossing can be made from the northbound lane of Route 113 just before reaching the Royal Farms, or from Clayton Street, entering near Mediacom. For more information about the club, visit www.delawareseasiderailroadclub.com.