Train club is all aboard at new Felton home

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 6/24/22

FELTON — In January, the First State Model Railroading Club moved into a new home.

And to show its displays off, the club, founded in 1985, will hold an open house Saturday at the site, in the Willow Run Community Center, 624 Horsepen Road.

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Train club is all aboard at new Felton home

Posted

FELTON — In January, the First State Model Railroading Club moved into a new home.

And to show its displays off, the club, founded in 1985, will hold an open house Saturday at the site, in the Willow Run Community Center, 624 Horsepen Road.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to the club’s two fully operational model train layouts, it will feature a book signing by Doug Poore, the writer of multiple publications about the railroading history of Harrington, as well as lectures from an Amtrak engineer and a conductor.

“We are very excited to open our new building to the public,” said Jim Thompson, a founding member. “We’re pretty active for the 20 members that we have. At the same time, we’re all getting old.”

The layouts are HO gauge, which Mr. Thompson said are “realistic because of the detailing you can put into it.”

He added that the First State Club is “mainly a Pennsylvania Railroad organization.”

The older layout is a miniature of the state of Delaware from the 1960s, with the Pennsylvania Railroad running through it. It includes towns such as Camden, Woodside, Viola and others, “the way they looked back in the ’50s,” Mr. Thompson said.

While the earlier model runs by transformer, “the new layouts, they all have computer chips. We stand there with a handheld telling that train what to do,” he said.

Over its history, the group of train enthusiasts has had several headquarters.

For 10 years, it was stationed at the former Wyoming Train Station, which the club restored to the tune of about $90,000, Mr. Thompson said. That was followed with a McKee Road base in Dover for 12 years, a spot in which the club invested about $50,000, not counting labor.

But for reasons out of their control, the railroaders were forced to leave those locations, he said.

The club learned of the availability of the Horsepen Road venue while attending a show in Hartly.

“For something like that to come along, I guess, when one door closes, another one opens,” said Mr. Thompson.

He added that his group has been blessed with community generosity and in-house skills.

“Twenty members at $60 really doesn’t pay for much. Every time I see I need money — I write a newsletter every month — and the money just comes out of nowhere,” Mr. Thompson said. “The day we moved in, it needed a half a roof, which was $7,000. Within two weeks, I had $7,000. It’s a good story to know that there are still good people today that are willing to go out of their way.”

Club members meet Thursday nights just to run trains. Interested nonmembers are welcome to join them, starting at 7. Meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month.

For information, visit here, contact the club at fsmrrc@gmail.com or call 302-307-6002.