This weekend, the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club will present its annual Indian Summer Train & Toy Show at the Roxana Fire Hall.
“We’ll get together this Saturday and set the trains up and run trains. It really is a lot of fun,” said Bill Mixon, a member of the club.
Mixon, who was the club’s first president, along with three other gentlemen formed the club about 10 years ago.
“We met at Seaside Hobbies in Ocean View, and we thought it would be a fun idea to start a club. After about a year, we decided to make it a non-profit organization,” he explained. “Right away, our mission was to preserve and promote the history and hobby of model railroading.
“Today, so many kids are playing with handheld devices. There is a lot that model railroading has to offer them — not only the history, but also they can learn a lot of stills: woodworking skills, electrical skills, planning and designing. We thought it would be a good idea to work toward this goal.”
The annual show — which costs $4 per person for admission, while children 10 or younger will be admitted free of charge — is a way for the club to raise money to support its mission.
“In order to fulfill our mission, we needed some form of income. We thought the show would do both. It would fulfill our mission by getting kids and adults to come to a place to see trains and, at the same time, we could charge admission to help raise funds to continue our mission.”
Held on Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the show will have numerous toy and train dealers on hand and feature a number of train layouts. Last year’s show drew more than 600 people.
“It’s a really fun show,” Mixon said. “There are two things going on: We’ll have a bunch of layouts with different gauges. It’ll be something for families to bring their kids to see the trains running. And they’re interactive, too. People can actually push buttons and make things work. At the same time, we have the toy and train show going on where you can come and purchase toys and trains from dealers, or people like me who might have some trains to sell.”
The funds raised through the show will help fund various activities the club offers to the public throughout the year.
“We have a fulltime, permanent HO layout at the Selbyville Train Station. We set up our own modular layouts at other train shows, such as the Seaford Train Show and the Hartly Train Show. We’ve also exhibited at the Delaware State Archives, and as far away as York at the national Train Show,” said Mixon.
“In addition, we have this year, in the Georgetown Library, quite a bit of the upstairs taken over operating trains. New this year, we’re going to have a special layout for kids — that’s Thomas the Train — and the kids will have a handheld device that they can use to actually operate the trains.”
Mixon said there’s nothing better than seeing the expression on a child’s face after they see a train for the first time.
“That is just unbelievable. They walk up to the trains, and the expression on their faces is just unbelievable. That makes it all worthwhile,” he said. “It also shows kids there are other ways to have fun and enjoy things, other than video games and television.”
The allure of trains, Mixon said, likely comes from Christmastime, when families set up trains underneath the Christmas tree.
“For one thing, it’s a family affair. Putting a layout up around the Christmas tree once a year, or even a permanent layout, you get the whole family involved, which is something I think this country really needs.
“I got involved because we used to put a layout underneath our Christmas tree,” he noted. “My family did that from the time I was born. I came from the Philadelphia area, and we called it a ‘layout.’ People who come from the Baltimore area, they call it a ‘garden.’
“We associate trains with Christmas. Today, I’m not sure how many families still do that. That’s why it’s important for our club to reach out and show the kids there are other activities they can do. I have trains up fulltime, but when we put our Christmas tree up, there’ll be a train under it.”
Mixon said he’s an operator, rather than a collector, and currently has a Lionel pre-war layout, as well as a modern S-gauge layout, set up in his home.
The term “gauge” refers to the distance between the tracks, he explained.
“The S-gauge has a certain measurement and an O-gauge has a larger measurements between the tracks. Gauge is distance across the tracks, whereas ‘scale’ is the relative size of the unit in proportion to the real one. Our club is an all-scale club. We have members that have all gauges and all scales.”
Currently, the club meets on the second Tuesday of every month at the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach, at 7 p.m. Mixon said the club, which has more than 60 members, is still in need of a permanent home.
“We need a home badly. We were housed in the Georgetown Train Station before the fire. After that’s rebuilt, we would still like to go back there. We need a permanent home, a place to set up our trains and invite the public in on a regular basis. It’s hard to come by — especially when you’re a nonprofit and you don’t have a lot of income.”
He added that the club always welcomes new members — men and women of all ages and gauges.
“We would love to have more members. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Mixon said he hopes people from the community will attend to toy and train show, and fall in love with model trains.
“Our hope is we get a lot of kids there and to help them get interested in playing with trains.”
The Roxana Fire House is located at 35943 Zion Church Road, on Route 20 between Dagsboro and Fenwick Island, in Roxana. For more information on the club, visit www.delawareseasiderailroadclub.com. Those who are interested in becoming a member can call Bill Ziegler at (302) 537-1964 or Bill Mixon at (302) 827-4278.