A model railroad exhibit created by enthusiasts at Pine Run is bringing people of all ages together to marvel at the miniature landscape of "Roylestown."
The model train town, inspired by Doylestown, is the creation of Pine Run Rails, a group of model train aficionados who live at Pine Run retirement community on Ferry Road. The men who built it recently opened their workshop to 4- and 5-year-olds from a Doylestown childcare center, with happy results.
The students from Children’s Village at Doylestown Hospital arrived recently via private trolley at the railroading workshop in the Upper Craft Barn at for a day of entertainment, education and appreciation of the talents of their elders.
“It’s still a work in progress,” group member Harry David said of the model train layout, “but we love showing it off, and part of the enjoyment comes from watching our audience and their reactions.”
Accompanied by teachers Sharon Morrisette, Kathy Weber and Megan Gallagher, the children of the "Moonlight Mountain" class were given train conductor caps and bandannas to wear. They stood on the tips of their toes and gazed with wide eyes as trains snaked their way through Roylestown, the miniature town inspired by Doylestown.
Five year-old Cora Stein shared her experience riding the train to the Philadelphia Flower Show.
“I really liked riding the train and hearing all the sounds,” said Stein. “The (model trains) make the same sounds as the one I was on. But my favorite part of a train is the conductor,” added Stein as she pointed to the train operators in the room.
Pine Run Rails was founded in 2003 with a donation from Pine Run. Residents who joined the group also contributed their own funds. Together with an annual budget from Pine Run Villager Board, the funds helped lay the groundwork for the model train town design, which includes two loops connected by crossovers.
As soon as he heard about the idea of a miniature-railroading project, Harry David, one of the six originators and a resident of Pine Run, immediately was interested.
“I’ve been involved with model railroading for nearly 60 years,” David said. “But once my son was born, the room that I had been using for storage of the trains needed to be emptied, so I had to get rid of it all.”
The group designed the original track on a 10 by 20 foot area. Over time, they were able to buy six locomotives, freight cars and houses. Each member contributed different skills, including carpentry, model building, background painting and train operation. A resident outside the Pine Run Rails group created the artistic backdrop.
"Along with billiards and woodworking, the Pine Run Rails is another one of the creative activities that the men of Pine Run can enjoy," said Ceil Krajewski, Director of Villager Services.
As Evan Thomas, one of the visiting children, gushed about the houses, Ken Kitson shared the secrets behind the construction.
“The houses and buildings are either made from scratch or from kits that, back in the 1920’s, were worth nearly $2,000," said Kitson, who has been a member of Pine Run Rails for four years.
Many of the structures are miniature replicas of landmark buildings in Doylestown. A scratch-made version of , at the intersection of Rt. 202 & 413, stands in the center of Roylestown, made from wood, cardboard and shingle material for the roof.
“Many of the pleasures,” said Kitson, “are in seeing the detail.” He pointed out a scene incorporating action in still-life art, in which a painter standing on the ledge of a billboard is unaware of the tipping paint bucket overhead.
The children looked upon the miniature world of Roylestown as if witnessing an undiscovered land. Some even whispered while admiring the intricacies of the model people, in case their voices were too loud for the tiny ears.
Over time, some Pine Run Rails members either moved or lost interest. The three who remain include David, the main train operator and one of the originators, Kitson and Joe Bavitz, who joined six months ago.
Still, the enjoyment they shared with the children was palpable - the ultimate reward for years of hard work and dedication.
“It is not surprising," said Barbara Chierici, marketing director at Pine Run, "to find that the spontaneity of children gives all of us reason to laugh, learn, and grow."
Pine Run Rails meets every Friday at 1 p.m. in the Craft Barn at Pine Run. Train enthusiasts may inquire by calling Ceil Krajewski at 215-340-5168.