Seaford Museum hosts model train show for eighth year
By Lynn R. Parks
This is the eighth year that the Seaford Museum has hosted a model train show over the Christmas season. But don't think, just because you've been to previous shows, that this one doesn't have anything new for you.
'Every year, we have different trains on display,' said Jimmy Blackwell, museum curator and model train aficionado. This year's show features engines and cars that were made before World War II, including a few standard gauge trains that date to the 1920s and that belong to Shelley Spicer of Seaford.
Spicer, 89, got his first train set when he was a boy and his aunt and uncle moved into a house in Wilmington, where they discovered a standard gauge model in the attic. He was the lucky recipient of the set, he said, but his younger brother, Maynard, got to play with the trains during the day, when Shelley was in school. 'My mother said that he could do that, but he had to put them all back in their boxes before I got home,' Spicer said. 'He was very careful with them, and always had them put away.'
Spicer doesn't still have that set: A few years after acquiring it, he sent it, plus $10, to the manufacturer, the Lionel Corporation, in exchange for a new, smaller, O gauge set. Standard gauge trains run on tracks whose rails are 2 and 1/8 inches apart.
The cars are large and setting up a circle of track requires a lot of room. O gauge track rails are just 1.25 inches apart.
But Spicer does have an exact replica of his first set, down to the color, red, and pieced together after he started collecting model trains 30 years ago. When he found, at a show in Philadelphia, the third car to complete the set, he told the dealer that he felt like he had just been dealt a straight flush. That set is among those on display at the museum. Also there is a newer model, made by MTH Electric Trains (formerly Mike's Train House), in Columbia, Md., of a specialty steam engine that was built in the early 20th century for the Erie Railroad to help its trains climb the steep banks of Lake Ontario.
The engine, which was so powerful that it would sometimes pull couplers right out from underneath cars, had three sets of eight wheels and three times the horsepower of regular steam engines. The MTH model is a scale model of the Erie 5015 and, right now at least, is Spicer's favorite model among those that are on display. But maybe not for long Ñ 'They change, you know,' he said.
Also in the museum display is a replica of a mountain, carved from a large tree root and featuring a train tunnel. Blackwell said that it was made after World War I to accommodate a model of a German train. The museum's setup includes a black, red and gold German flag, flying from the highest point of the mountain, and several grazing mountain goats.
Most of the trains in the exhibition are set up in cases and are stationary. Just two models, the Hogworts Express and a 1943 passenger train, ride the rails in a display set up in the center of the room.
Also included in the exhibition are Santas from the collection of Blackwell's brother, Barry.
Blackwell said that the Seaford Historical Society, which owns and operates the museum, is happy to provide something for children to enjoy during the holiday season. 'When I was growing up, everybody had some sort of model train set,' he said.
At the same time, it wants to share historical information about the models. 'This is a train show like a museum would have, with details about all of the trains,' he said.
Spicer said that he is happy to be able to help with the display. 'I just like trains, and I don't mind sharing them with others,' he said. All aboard!!
The Seaford Historical Society's annual model train exhibit is on display at the Seaford Museum, 203 High St., Seaford, through Jan. 15. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $3, free for children 12 and younger.
For information, call the museum, 629-9828, or visit the website seafordhistoricalsociety.com.
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