Ware Village club members are workin’ on the railroad
By J. Chambless
The members of the Ware Model Railroad Club gather for a picture between train platforms. (Photos by Chris Barber)
Every Monday – and sometimes more often -- the men of Ware Presbyterian Village get together to oversee and play with their large and impressive model train setup in the basement of the original Ware Mansion.
The collection of trains, tables, miniature buildings and elaborate transformers is a wonder to see, with multiple platforms, a host of miniature buildings and enough trains to fill a tiny Grand Central Station. The trains vary in scale from the small HO to medium O27 and large 0 gauge.
According to yard master Bob Undercuffler, who wears a train engineer hat, the project started in June 2016, when members of the Ware Village administration became aware of interest among some of their residents in model trains.
Three of those interested members -- Undercuffler, Bob Philhower and Gene Garthwait – were called to make plans and received permission to develop a room for their hobby.
“They brought me to this basement room, 16-by-16 square feet, where people used to sit and play cards,” Undercuffler said. “They asked, ‘Would this work?’”
“I said ‘Yes, it would be a start,’” he continued.
It wasn’t long before news of the cub began to flow, and people started bringing in boxes of trains. One person had five boxes of trains, another had four. The women of the Village helped by spreading the word, and contributions came even from beyond the Ware community.
One member said he was not so lucky. Even though his adult son no longer played with the trains, he refused to give them up to his father for the club.
Nonetheless, the accounts of the contributions continue to the present. The interest in the model train club is so high that boxes of trains still appear anonymously at the club site. Obviously, with all those trains and paraphernalia, there was growth. At first it was fun setting up a small table and tracks in that little room, but it was undeniable that they needed more space.
“We had invited people in to see it, but at one point the line was so heavy that people got stuck. There was a person in a wheelchair, and there was a physical therapist who had to get everyone turned around. He told us, ‘You need to get more space,’” Undercuffler said.
Little by little, they got permission to grow their complex to the point where it now includes the mansion’s entire underground level -- even the old office the chaplain occupied. That original 16-by-16-foot room where that first guest got stuck has become a kind of receiving and processing room. When people contribute their old trains, they are catalogued, checked out for condition and, in some cases, stored.
To get into the club setup, visitors and members enter the room by the basement door.
Once inside, they see in a sprawling collection of engines, cars, transformers and mechanical accessories covering at least six platforms.
Throughout the life of the club, the members have collected or built tiny models of barns, stations and stores, as well as custom-made reproductions of locations around Oxford. Curious observers will see Oxford’s Presbyterian Church, the Ware Mansion, the local Sunoco station and a McDonalds.
Bill and Sally Moore’s Dairy Farm on Route 926 (they now live at Ware) is there too, complete with a milking barn and cows.
Depicted on the wall background that was painted by artist Annette Pennington are Conowingo dam, an Amish buggy, a Herr’s truck and a line of mushroom houses to reflect the local geography. Pennington, who has a background in making dollhouses, also made the model of the Ware Mansion and has said she is willing to pitch in to design various other mini-dwellings.
Bridges, tunnels and crossovers are other features that add to the interest of the sprawling setup.
Given that model trains through the years have been made in different sizes and use different tracks, the club members have built different platforms to accommodate those sizes. The small HO trains have their own platform with homes and buildings in the same scale, and a bridge with one train crossing over another.
Likewise, the O-gauge (large scale) trains occupy several platforms and not only travel simultaneously like a lovely vehicle dance, but are -- at the operator’s choice -- accompanied by music.
Another platform houses the O27’s (middle size), while off in a nook is a new table that is home to the recently acquired HO-gauge Philadelphia Eagles train. Each one of the Eagles cars is green, and the club acquired them one month at a time, as they were issued, to complete the set.
Finally, the men purchased a door, attached tracks, put on miniature dwellings and sturdy handles. They take it periodically with working trains to the assisted living and medical buildings at Ware so those residents don’t have to miss out on the pleasure of seeing and enjoying the action.
The men paused during an interview when they were asked what they do when they come to the meetings. Essentially, they play. But, upon reflection, several said there is always something to do. They make new tables and platforms for the ever-growing fleet of trains. They deal with the electronics of getting power to the engines. They fix things that are broken. They take people on tours. They sort out the new stuff. They clean the place up. During business meetings, they make plans and organize finances.
The members of the Model Railroad Club are all residents of Ware Presbyterian Village along Locust Street. They have matching shirts with the Ware Model Railroad Club logo on the front.
They club members are willing to take visitors on tours, pending appointments. They also have open houses for the “Christmas in July” event and during the holiday season on the second Saturday of December from 1 to 4 p.m.