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HONESDALE, PA ─ In the basement of the parish house at Grace Episcopal Church, you could just hear the whistle from the Stourbridge Lion as it chugged out of Honesdale one Saturday in November.
In town, the train was running, packed with passengers, for the Honesdale for the Holidays weekend. The Santa Express will welcome riders on two weekends before Christmas, and other special excursions, have been bringing people into Honesdale quite frequently in recent months. But in the church basement you could find a different kind of train exhibit, 42 years in the making: the mythical town of Wayne and its railroad, courtesy of the Stourbridge Lion Model Railroad Club.
“These guys are constantly working,” said club member Lynn Dooley with a smile.
The audience was appreciative. The draw might be the love of trains, or the love of miniatures, but in a half-hour period, people shuffled in and out of the small room—the display accommodating roughly 15 at a time. Kids and adults pressed up against the glass, peering in at the HO-scale buildings (in model railroad-speak, that’s pronounced aitch-oh and works out to models at 1/87 the size of real buildings and trains). The mini-train cruised through a tunnel and wound through Wayne. Club members moved in and out of the display, tweaking until all was just right.
Wayne is an amalgamation of towns from Lake Wallenpaupack to Scranton, including nods to Narrowsburg and Callicoon on the Delaware River. “It’s a replica of any typical small town with a train,” said group president Frank Friedrich, “Although there are replicas of a few Honesdale buildings.” The era is a mix too, with train cars from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, and locomotives from later decades. The display includes a subway, the #2 IRT from New York City, which real-life commuters here only wish existed.
Not everyone in the hobby has a train background, but many do. Friedrich, for example, was three years old when he got his first track, and his maternal grandfather worked for a German railroad. On this Saturday, he set up a Thomas the Tank Engine train for the kids to touch, since Wayne’s train is off-limits.
Those bitten by the train bug are serious hobbyists─model railroads will take up entire basements or barns if you let them─but “we’re here for the kids too,” said Dooley.
“Trains are bringing all ages together,” she added. “We’ve had grandfathers come in. They ask, ‘Are you going to be open again? It’s the only time I have to be with my grandson.’”
The Stourbridge Lion Model Railroad Club meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evenings from April through November in the Grace Church Parish basement, 827 Church St. For information, call Frank Friedrich at 570/226-1714.