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December 14, 2012

Senior engineer: Member keeps model trains chugging at Vinco center

JOHNSTOWN — Besides visiting with Santa Claus, the second most popular activity today at the Jackson Township Senior Center will be watching the model trains.

That’s because the senior center, located in Vinco, is hosting a Christmas party for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of members.

The members of the senior center are particularily proud of its display of seven trains that rumble over seven layouts in one room at the building.

The railroad display is open year-round, with this time of year obviously being the busiest time of year due to the popularity of trains in the American culture at Christmastime.

Christmastime is also when Philip Boyer, chief engineer of the railroad display, gets to act like a young boy again while showing off the trains to the many visitors.

The trains are extra popular during Christmastime and when there are special events such as the Christmas party, Boyer said.

“I let them blow the whistle,” he said about one of the most fascinating things for the youngsters to do.

“They like them (trains) a lot.

“They will come and stay for a long time and watch them.”

Boyer and others at the center built the massive train display in 1999 and have been making additions to it ever since.

Most of the trains and displays have been donated by residents.

Boyer, along with senior center members Dorothy Dreikorn, Stella Yesenosky and Frank Singel and the late Pete Bracken and late Bob Seaman, both of whom were senior center members, were instrumental in building the display. They also had help from others.

The display features one train called the Vinco Express ’99, the year the display was built; a lighted American flag; a mountain with homes and skiers; six tunnels; a Flight 93 Memorial; an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico; Old Bedford Village; a cattle farm; and a coal mine.

Boyer said he is working on a replica of the Inclined Plane in Johnstown to add to the display.

“There is nothing like this in the community,” Boyer said. “We did it for the community.”

Vince Schaffer, a member of the senior center, said Boyer does a “tremendous job.”

“Thank God we have Phil,” he said.

“The kids just love it,” he said of the train display.

All the trains are HO gauge and were donated by Jackson Township residents.

“Many of them had the trains underneath their Christmas trees,” Schaffer said. “When their children grew up, they did not want the trains any longer, so they donated them to us.”

Boyer’s daughter, Elaine Hargrove, of Tennessee, donated a New York Central Railroad display, and a nephew from Florida donated a Coca-Cola sign.

When Boyer was visiting a relative in England recently, he saw a model of a double-decker bus that he liked and bought it for the display.

“We like it,” he said about the members of the senior center.

“Many of the members like to watch the trains and help to maintain the display,” he said.

Singel, president of the senior center, said Boyer loves trains and enjoys helping in the community.

Boyer gives demonstrations of the train year-round with summer being the next busiest time besides Christmas, he said.

Other busy times are during special occasions such as Halloween and Light-Up Night.

During the Christmas season, Boyer will be spending extra time showing off the trains, Singel said.

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