The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 16, 2009

All aboard | Model train enthusiasts assemble 'Christmas Town' at retirement home



The smile on 89-year-old Bill Werner’s face spoke volumes.

The resident of Arbutus Park Retirement Community was wheeled into the community room to view an expansive model train display that has been assembled for the holiday season.

Werner, a former Ferndale resident, eagerly examined every detail of the display.

“I always had a train set up under my Christmas tree and my two daughters would squeal and scream with delight when I would run the train,” said Werner, who has been a resident at Arbutus for less than a year.

“I think this is outstanding and can’t imagine the amount of work it took to set this up.”

The display is the work of model train enthusiasts Ron Reinbold of Salix and Win Garland of the Moxham section of Johnstown.

The men worked about 40 hours each to assemble the “Christmas Town” exhibit at the manor, 207 Ottawa St., Richland Township.

The G-guage, or large scale display, features two trains meandering through different villages built on a temporary 12-by-24 platform.

“We used nine, 4-by-8 sheets of plywood and started from there,” said Garland.

“The real fun for us is setting things up, laying out the display and creating the landscape.”

All the buildings, trains and scenery in “Christmas Town” belong to Reinbold.

The retired associate professor of German at Pitt-Johnstown used 47 oversized buildings to form two distinct villages.

The pieces come from an expansive outdoor display on Reinbold’s property that is operational year round.

On one half of the table, an authentic European Alpine village is depicted, complete with a large chalet and townspeople going about their daily chores.

Adjacent to the mountain town is a typical American community dating back to the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

A sign on the theater is advertising “Gone With the Wind” as its featured film.

The men started constructing the display during the third week of November.

“Trains are a big part of the American culture,” Reinbold said.

“Trains opened the West and revolutionized the industrial revolution.”

But at Arbutus, it’s all about fun.

Two trains run simultaneously over the terrain.

A scale model of a Pardee & Curtin Lumber Co. locomotive chugs along as it hauls three railcars full of logs to the mill.

The second train is a Pennsylvania Railroad model that boasts a steam engine, coal tender, two boxcars and one gondola car that residents find extremely sweet.

“I came down for my kiss,” said Audrey Prough, 81, a resident at Arbutus for nearly three years.

“They have a little car from Hershey’s and it’s filled with candy kisses that they give out to us as a treat.”

Prough is thankful someone would take the time to treat her and other residents to such a delightful display.

“It’s amazing and it looks like a real train station,” she said.

“I like to look at the old cars and seeing people going about their work. It’s so lifelike.”

Werner, who worked as a superintendent in the meat department for the former Acme Market grocery chain, said he plans to return to the room throughout the Christmas season.

“We can come and go easily here, and I’ll be back to enjoy it several more times,” he said.

Reinbold’s love of trains began in the 1950s when he owned his first Lionel train.

Unfortunately in 1964, he had to sell the train to raise money for college tuition.

Reinbold’s wife, Pat, also played a role in getting the village ready as she scrubbed and cleaned each building prior to placing it on the platform.

This marks the third year that Arbutus has had the exhibit.

“The first year was for the residents, volunteers and staff to enjoy,” Reinbold said.

While no one would have been turned away from seeing the trains, the exhibit wasn’t open to the public until last year.

“We try to make it different each year,” Reinbold said.

“We run a video showing my outdoor display and there’s a photo storyboard showing how we built it.”

Like other railroads, the “Christmas Town” exhibition is on a schedule.

Trains may be viewed from 2 to 4 p.m. today and from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24-25, 29-30 and Jan 3.

On display

What: “Christmas Town” train exhibit.

Where: Arbutus Park Retirement Community, 207 Ottawa St., Richland Township.

When: 2 to 4 p.m. today and from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24-25, 29-30 and Jan. 3.

Admission: Free.