The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Features

November 24, 2013

Model-train enthusiasts setting up annual display at retirement community

JOHNSTOWN — For the sixth year, model trains are getting ready to leave the station at the Christmas Town Railroad Display at Arbutus Park Retirement Community, 207 Ottawa St., Richland Township.

The large-scale, G gauge trains and accompanying villages set up by Ron Reinbold of Salix and Arbutus resident Win Garland will be running on schedule beginning Saturday and continuing through Jan. 1 on various weekday and weekend afternoons.

“The trains are larger than Lionel, which is the standard size,” Reinbold said.

“I’ve loved trains since 1950 when I got my first Lionel 027 steam engine.”

Before his trains ever puffed and whistled around the tracks, Reinbold, who is on the board of directors for Arbutus, talked to the director about the need for a train display.

“I was willing to provide it,” he said.

“For the first couple of years, it was just me and my wife. The public likes it quite a bit. We get well over 1,000 (visitors).”

Reinbold owns all the buildings, trains and scenery in Christmas Town, and has a large outdoor display at his home year-round.

His wife, Pat, assists the two train enthusiasts by transporting and cleaning the many buildings used in the display.

Reinbold and Garland estimated they each spend 40 hours setting up each year’s display, beginning with wiring all the tracks and ending with landscaping all the miniature scenes they have created – even crafting their own rolling hills.

“It takes a good week to set up,” Reinbold said.

“Win and I both love model railroading and trains. It’s lots of fun.”

The 14-by-24 train platform in the community room at Arbutus was constructed using nine, 4-by-8 sheets of plywood.

“We change the tracks in the middle,” Garland said.

“Sometimes we have a figure eight or a round one by itself.”

This year’s layout, which will be set in the fall, will feature five trains.

Two will travel in circles in the middle of the display, while a third encircles them both and a fourth goes back and forth on a reverse loop on two sides of the platform.

The fifth train engine will be put to work on a separate railroad siding display, where those who’ve always wanted to be train engineers can test their skills.

For the second year, visitors of all ages will get the chance to make maneuvers as they move items onto different tracks.

“We give them a card that tells them what maneuvers to make,” Reinbold said.

“They use a digital remote, which the kids pick up right away. There’s some reluctance with those who are older.”

In addition, the apprentice engineers can press buttons for smoke and a bell and whistle.

After completing their maneuvers, which takes eight to 10 minutes, they will receive an official engineer’s certificate signed by Reinbold or Garland with a space to fill in their own name.

“Last year was the first year we did this, and I just bet there were some certificates posted on refrigerators and in kids’ rooms,”  Reinbold said.

“It’s a showstopper. They line up two or three deep.”

On the platform, spaces between the train tracks will be filled in with a red-roofed Alpine village, an American town from the 1940s or 1950s and a farm.

“New this year is a pumpkin patch and horse-drawn wagon,” Reinbold said.

“There will be 40 to 50 buildings and 200 people. We try to display them talking to each other or doing something meaningful.”

As Arbutus residents stop by to see how the train display is coming along, they often wonder how Reinbold and Garland get all the items in the middle of the vast display.

“We climb on the platform and do a section at a time straight across,” Reinbold said.

“Each day, we have a new locomotive, and we bring out the Christmas train as it gets closer to the day.”

A holiday favorite is a gondola car containing chocolate candy kisses, available for snacking.

Reinbold and Garland both are present during the display’s operating hours, mingling with the crowd, overseeing the train maneuvers and keeping watch so that young hands don’t derail the trains.

“It’s rewarding to have the display bring back memories of what people remember about their Christmas,” Garland said.

Lisa Arcurio of the community affairs office at the retirement community said there also will be a video of a garden railroad, like the one Reinbold has at his home, and a picture board featuring Lionel and MTH trains.

The display is open to residents and visiting family members and the public.

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