On The Right Track

The Delaware Seaside Railroad Club Powers The Passions Of Model Train Collecting

Train enthusiasts travel back in time more than a century as model trains of many shapes and sizes, dating back to the 1880s, travel around five uniquely breathtaking layouts inside the Delaware SeaSide Railroad Club in Dagsboro. Nearly every inch of the 2,000-square-foot building is filled with history right at your fingertips.

“It’s something you can feel and experience,” club president John Hodges said of the vast array of trains that greet visitors every Wednesday and Saturday year-round. The collection ranges from the Overland Express baggage cars dating back to the late 19th century to the Amtrak trains that, at 20 years old, are still considered new by longtime collectors.

The nonprofit club began in 2004 with four members at SeaSide Hobbies in Ocean View. As the group grew to its current total of roughly 70 members young and old, it moved to its current location, at the corner of Routes 113 and 26. Setups here feature trains chugging along over bridges, through mountainsides and around picturesque towns with real smoke billowing from the smokestacks. Venture deeper into the building, and you will find tracks surrounding a working outdoor fair and amusement park on one side, and another setup that has a working helicopter and a building with a simulated fire that’s extinguished by nearby firefighters.

TRACKING PROGRESS The elaborate setups and vignettes on display at the Delaware SeaSide Railroad Club began with just four kindred spirits at SeaSide Hobbies in Ocean View. Today, the club boasts about 70 avid members, young and old.

Meanwhile, club members enjoy a hobby that began in childhood but has since outgrown their homes. “I’m in heaven here. I don’t have a train room at home that’s 36 feet long,” show organizer and longtime member Bill Ziegler said. Still, he pointed to a small wooden train set near the club’s front door.

“This is the hook. The kid runs to this,” he said. “We want to get young people involved. They’re the future of model railroading, not just this club.”

The club has six junior members, from ages 10 to 17, who Hodges hopes will continue to grow the club through free weekly open houses, hands-on workshops for students at local schools and two annual shows at Roxana Fire Company. “The mission [from the club’s inception] was to promote the hobby of model railroading. The original members felt like it was a dying hobby,” said Hodges, whose collection includes some trains from his childhood. “It’s a pretty neat franchise to be involved with.”

Story by Victor Fernandes
Photo by Grant L. Gursky

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