GEORGETOWN — The legacy of a passionate, lifelong railroad enthusiast whose parents were founding members of the Georgetown Historical Society will be earmarked soon as a showcase exhibit at the Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum.
Model train enthusiasts Kevin Brown and Chris Black of Seaford, and Mr. Brown’s longtime friend, Ron Gillespie, are conducting the detailed project, coined “Jimmy Boyer Trains at the Marvel Museum,” in salute to Mr. Boyer, a resident at the Harrison House nursing home in Georgetown.
“Jimmy Boyer, this was his collection,” said Georgetown Historical Society President Jim Bowden. “He was a rail fan. He was big-time. He’d go on trips, northwest, through Chicago. Then, he had his own layout. This was in his garage. When he had to go in the Harrison House, I had talked to him for a couple years about what (his) legacy is going to be because his parents were founding members (of the society), and he was a member.
“And I told him, if you will donate this to the museum, I will promise you that we will have a ‘Jimmy Boyer’ exhibit. The J.B. Train Museum is what he called his. So now it’s ‘Jimmy Boyer Trains at the Marvel Museum,’” he added.
The HO-scale exhibit will replicate in as many ways as possible the layout Mr. Boyer had in his garage, with some additional amenities.
“His collection is a wide variety from railroads from all over the country. So to limit this whole layout just to the Delmarva Peninsula or Georgetown … wouldn’t do Mr. Boyer’s layout justice,” said Mr. Brown.
The project has been in the works for about five months, with twice-a-week trips from Seaford to Georgetown for the three volunteers, who all have official project titles — Mr. Brown is trainmaster; Mr. Black, yardmaster; and Mr. Gillespie, railroad police representative/special agent.
“All three have their Pennsylvania Railroad business cards. They have seriously been working hard on this,” Mr. Bowden said.
“I put it out on Facebook, ‘Hey, does anybody know anybody that would be interested in taking on a project?’” Mr. Bowden said. “Kevin didn’t jump in there right away, but a lot of people volunteered him. … Kevin had no idea what we had. Kevin jumped in. Chris and I have known each other through the Seaford Museum. Chris does the train stuff at the Seaford Museum. They both have their own layouts.”
Mr. Black, who has been into model railroading for a long time, didn’t immediately commit to undertaking the project.
“But then, I thought, it’s really a great opportunity for us to provide something for the community, really. After we saw it, we said we’ll definitely have to do it,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but we are moving quickly.”
Mr. Gillespie made it a threesome, although he admittedly is not a die-hard model train guy, as Mr. Brown and Mr. Black are.
For years, Mr. Brown has spearheaded the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department’s annual train show.
“Ronnie came on-board after coming over here and looking at it. Ronnie and I have been … friends for 40-plus years.” Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Gillespie explained, “(Mr. Brown) caught me off-guard one day at work, ‘Can you come over and take a look?’ I enjoy coming over and working with them. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been over here. When I do go on vacation, I do send Kevin pictures of trains when I see them.”
When completed, the exhibit will have intricate wiring, capable of running three trains at once.
“Everything is color-coded to the track and how you want it to run. They have engineered all of this,” said Mr. Bowden.
The display will also feature Mr. Boyer’s photo collection, the roundhouse, fuel depot, detailed landscapes and what may be a unique twist in the region’s model railroading — a car float/barge/tugboat feature.
“We have been enamored with the car float that was down at Cape Charles, that went across to Little Creek, Virginia,” said Mr. Bowden. “The New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk Railroad had passenger service, and they also did freight. They had a switch down there, offloaded onto a barge.”
The car float will feature a double crossover, a 5- to 6-foot extension that will include a water-simulation element and the Boyer Wye.
“We’ve kind of got it similar to some degree to Cape Charles,” said Mr. Bowden. “This will be a tribute to the car float. I didn’t know of any other groups that have that car float. It’s going to be kind of cool.”
Mr. Boyer’s collection includes 277 railroad engines and about 1,550 railroad cars. “Most of them have never been out of their boxes,” said Mr. Bowden. “Mr. Boyer was into cabooses.”
Finishing touches will include bordering Plexiglas and portable step-up platforms that will allow young children to get a great view.
“When I came over here, I didn’t realize whose layout this was. But this layout is actually personal for me because the person that owns this layout and donated to this museum, he and I bought from the same gentleman back in the 1990s,” said Mr. Brown.
“It is something we want to get done for him, so he could get to see it. By him donating this layout and all the equipment to the museum, he wants to keep it that way. I felt like we needed to take this project on. Chris and I have been friends for a long time, taking care of the train show. We both have a love for trains, not only the model but in real life.
“The three of us have gotten this going pretty well in the last four to five months. It will be nice to see when the kids are able to come over here and look at this and see it operate. And I’m sure Mr. Boyer would be through-the-roof pleased about having this layout seen by the public again and running,” he said.
“We’re hoping to get him over here. That is the goal here in the next maybe month, when we have it running.”