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Our Timeline

"As we were growing up in our humbled beginnings. We enjoyed playing with model trains and by doing that we have a passion for model railroading today so, that we can share it with other children and adults alike. As we grew in size we became integral part of our community. We have formed many partnerships and made many friends along the way."

Jonathan D Wichter
President

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November 2008

Starting of the love of Model Trains:

The Buhl Model Train Society was started at the Buhl Club Nursery School by Carol Davis, Director on or about mid November 2008.

The children were going to study and play with “Thomas the Train”, when Mrs. Davis thought some real model trains that could possibly be brought in. Her husband Dave Davis, had trains and a few of us also had electric trains. Within a months’ time the first show was put on up on the 3rd floor, with 15 displays brought in by other train lovers. The first show drew over 600 people and we soon outgrew the 3rd floor.

December 19, 2008

First Annual Train Show:

It was a such a big hit for the kids so, Dave Decided to have him and his friends setup their train layouts on the the third floor the rececreation center. The kids and their parents came to see the many model trains. As time went on the popularity of showing the model train had grown to the point Dave and his friends had to think of a bigger place to show off their layouts.

2009

Secound Annual Train Show:

Dec 18, 2009: George Dell
A few years ago, George Dell’s daughter took him for a ride on an excursion train.

Dell, of Brookfield, remembered the ride as a couple of miles out, then back, at a top speed of 8 mph. His daughter asked him if the ride was fun.

“Oh, yeah,” Dell recalled his response, the words dripping with sarcasm.

Dell, who will be honored at the Buhl Holiday Train Show Saturday and Sunday at the Buhl Community Recreation Center, Sharon, spent nine years riding the rails in the ’30s and ’40s. From his perch in an open, speeding box car, he watched the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the dry scrub of Texas and the forests of the Northeast whiz by. An excursion train ride just does not compare.

Now 93, Dell fondly recalls his years as a hobo.

Born in Hollidaysburg, Pa., Dell was the son of a fireman on the Pennsylvania Railroad. His father took him to the station one day when he was a boy and he saw the PRR’s steam engine known as K-4.

“Power. Excitement,” Dell said of what trains have meant to him since that day.

He started drawing the impressive engine, and a lifelong hobby of drawing trains — and planes, boats and many other subjects — was born.

The Depression hit when Dell was in his teens, and his family stood in a soup line, as many others did for food.

The soup was doled out according to the size of the family.

“I figured, if I got out, it would be more for them,” he said.

So, at 17, Dell hopped his first freight.

“Arizona to Maine. Montana to Texas,” he said of the country he traveled.

Dell always carried a lunch box with him because it made him look like a railroad employee. He could walk right past the railroad police and board a train without anyone stopping him, he said.

Oh sure, he got thrown off his share, but never was arrested. He was one of many who traveled by rail — without tickets — at that time.

“You can’t arrest them all,” he said, noting some trains carried 200 freeloaders.

Dell recalled stopping in one town where there were probably 50 hobos but only 10 houses.

He figured there was no way he would find anything to eat and planned to keep going to the next town, but a fellow hobo knew better.

The hobo convinced Dell to come with him, and knocked on a door.

“A woman came to the door, about 75,” Dell said. “He said, ‘Morning ma’am, is your mother home?’ She set us down and gave us something to eat.”

“Psychology,” is how Dell phased his friend’s trickery.

“You’ll do anything to eat,” he said.

Although the country had hit on hard times, Dell said work came easy.

“Every time I came to a town, someone asked, ‘What kind of work do you do?’ You could always find a job.”

He worked for anywhere from $1 to $9 a day.

“Name it and I done it,” he said of jobs. He worked in diners, dug graves, plowed fields by horse and tractor, drove trucks and unloaded train cars. He particularly enjoyed farm work.

“Three meals and a place to stay,” he said, referring to the barn.

On a good day, farm work simply was enjoyable, he said.

“Barefoot, walking behind the plow on a hot day, soft ground. It felt good,” said Dell, who has been married three times and has two children and two grandchildren. “The robins would follow and eat the worms.”

The change to a more traditional way of life came on the spur of a moment.

“Sitting by a water tank and I thought, ‘Am I going to do this the rest of my life?’ I jumped an eastbound and headed home.”

He took a job at a feed mill in Wilmington, Del., later working with Pittsburgh Plate Glass in Newark, N.J., a Ralston Purina plant, and his own home repair business in Georgetown, Texas.

Dell can’t remember all the places he worked, including where he was employed when he moved to the Shenango Valley to marry his second wife, Jessie Heckathorn, whom he met in Texas.

These days, Dell keeps close to trains by drawing them.

He’ll recreate scenes from his hobo days, copy scenes from photographs and make up his own compositions.

He still draws the K-4 that made a strong impression on him all those years ago, and has detailed a steamer coming across the bridge on Water Avenue in Sharon.

An usher at First United Methodist Church, Sharon, Dell showed a drawing of three children sitting on a station platform seeing an engine for the first time.

A Civil War veteran stands in the background.

“People like it because of the flag,” he said of the American flag partially wrapped around a pole.

The three children in another drawing walking up to a track as a train bears down, are in no danger, he said.

“The train is going so slow,” Dell said.

December 19-20 2009: Secound Annual Train Show
Dave Davis and Ken Rogers went to the Director of the Buhl Rececreation Center to ask if they could put on a train show in the their GYM in December due to the fact they have out grew the up stairs. It was the start of a partnership with the Buhl Rececreation Center. It also help to bring people into the center and help them to potentialy get people to signup to be members of the facility.

Organizers say the second-annual Buhl Holiday Train show will be twice the size of last year's successful event.

David Davis, president of the Buhl Model Train Society, said he heads a group of enthusiasts who grew up with toy trains at Christmas time, and their desire is to pass some of that enthusiasm on to kids today.

This years show will feature more than 50 operating model and toy trains, railroad memorabilia, and a display of train pen and ink drawings and door prizes. The Buhl Model Train Society will be honoring George Dell, a local artist, who does pen-and-ink drawings of railroad related scenes. The 93-year-old was once a hobo, traveling around the country on freight trains.

New this year is a childrens story hour where kids can listen to The Polar Express presented by Milton Wilson, childrens librarian at the Community Library of the Shenango Valley in Sharon.

Visitors will also be able to meet retired locomotive engineer John Takoch and retired train conductor Robert Downing, and hear about life on the rails as told from their experience working on the railroad.

Bluegrass music will also be featured at this years event. At 5 p.m. Saturday the banjo duo of Jim Helmetzi and Fred Theisk will be on tap. At 1 p.m. Sunday the Dempseytown Ramblers: will be on hand.

Sean McGill made good use of two of his 10 model train sets on Saturday by setting them up in the gym of the Buhl Community Recreation Center in Sharon for dozens of people to see.

The occasion was the second annual Buhl Holiday Train Show organized by the Buhl Model Train Society.

Sean’s mother, Kelly McGill, said he has been getting a model train set for Christmas every year since he was born.

“I really like trains,” the 11-year-old said.

Sean’s favorite is the ‘Polar Express,’ a set named after a popular children’s book and movie of the same which has a holiday theme.

Both of his displays were set up in circles. The McGills had planned on a more creative layout but found that the club didn’t have enough space for that.

“Normally we have to set these up in the basement,” Mrs. McGill said.

On the other side of the gym, 4-year-old Blake Creed of Masury watched intently as two trains, set up on circular tracks one inside the other, went opposite ways around the tracks.

“His father just went to Afghanistan,” said Jack Creed, Blake’s grandfather. “We’re just trying to keep him and his mother busy.”

One of the more popular displays included several different Fisher-Price train sets that children were able to operate by remote-control.

“I set this up for the kids,” said Jennifer Perry, a member of the train society from Sharon.

Mrs. Perry said that she has five kids, for whom she often buys model trains. Her sister, she said, also has several kids and she also buys them model train sets.

“Between me and my sister, we got enough pieces to put this together,” Mrs. Perry said.

There were about 50 train sets on display Saturday, as well as some model train memorabilia such as a miniature steam engine.

“A lot of us got these when we were little kids and we don’t have a chance to set them up very often,” said David Davis, society president.

2010

Third Annual Train Show:

December 2010: Third Annual Train Show
Coming Soon

2011

Fourth Annual Train Show:

December 2011: Fourth Annual Train Show
Coming Soon

2012

Fifth Annual Train Show:

March 24 2012:
George Dell
One of our members has pastaway:
George Dell, Local Artist, Dear Friend and long time member.

November 17 2012: Annual Hermitage Holiday Light Parade
Bob Shannon - Has put togetter a parade float. In preparation for the 15th Annual Hermitage Holiday Light Parade.

December 8-9 2012: Fifth Annual Train Show
Coming Soon

2013

Sixth Annual Train Show:

December 7-8 2013: Sixth Annual Train Show
Nine-year-old Alexander Holmes of Grove City stole the show at Buhl Model Train Society’s sixth annual display.

The crowd around Alex’s enormous Thomas the Tank Engine set-up in the middle of the Buhl Community Recreation Center gymnasium proved to be a popular attraction.

The Rev. David Davis, organizer and past president of the train society, said most of the people showing off their sets at the 30-exhibit show learned electrical skills setting up their train sets as kids, like Alex.

“He knows as much about trains as we do,” said Davis, of Mercer. “He’s passionate about it.”

Alex sat by his collection wearing his conductor hat bought at the Oil Creek-Titusville Railroad in Titusville.

He could be seen at times darting around his tables sharing his know-how of trains with passersby.

He talked about his trains with the confidence of a seasoned collector. He said with equal confidence that he would like to be a train conductor or airplane pilot when he grows up.

It was Alex’s second year in the model train show.

“The way I started in this show is a long story,” Alex said, explaining that he met Davis at the elementary school he attends with Davis’ granddaughter.

“He saw my extravagant display at our hobby show and sent me a letter to come to this show last year,” Alex said. “Then he invited me again this year.”

Alex got interested in model train sets way back at the age of 2. “I used to call them chug-a-chugs,” he said.

Alex’s dad Michael said his son “got hooked” on collecting trains the first time the family went to the live steam engine show with Thomas the Tank Engine in Stroudsburg, Pa.

“He gets them for birthdays and Christmas,” Holmes said. “And when he’s good.”

Alex went into the intricacies of his collection and talked about the Thomas the Tank Engine line of trains and the television shows.

“I like the show from the 1990s and the old train sets,” he said.

When asked if he had every car in the set, he came back with an immediate “no,” but said he has big plans for his continuing collection.

“I want to get the real Thomas engines next,” Alex said.

The “real” Thomas engines are O-gauge models, each with a price tag of $700 or more.

The O-scale model trains are about three times the size of the children’s Thomas the Tank Engine cars.

The larger models were the most popular featured in a lot of the other displays at the weekend show.

Davis said the Buhl Train Society formed after his wife asked him to take his trains to show to preschoolers at Buhl Recreation Center.

The first year saw about 750 people pass through the displays. In years following, about 1,100 people come in to see the intricate train sets.

In addition to the train sets people have collected over the years, most are running their original train sets that are 50-to-60 years old, Davis said.

“We’re here mainly to provide nice, family fun for the area,” Davis said. “I think it sparks a lot of interest in the community.”

2014

Seventh Annual Train Show:

May 16 2014: Community Food Warehouse
We have donated money to the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County.

Auguest 14 2014: Our new website opened!
With our new website we are able to keep people informed about upcoming train shows. You can see our new photo gallery of past train shows and other layouts. See news about us and our town on our front page. Listen to podcasts from the Round House and view live train feeds from Virtual Train Fan, Also hear live train crew talk in our Train feeds area from USA and Canada. Look at catalogs on line from model train companies. There are so many other things to see and here.

December 13-14 2014: Seventh Annual Train Show
As one of 15 members of the Buhl Model Train Society, Shannon and other members of the group are all on board for the 7th Annual Holiday Train Show at the Buhl Community Recreation Center in Sharon this weekend.

The center’s gym should be nearly full with model train and other similar displays, Shannon said, including a display from the Shenango Valley Model Railroad Club.

“On display will be model trains of all scales,’’ the South Pymatuning Township resident said. “And there will be other things there related to railroads.’’

Scheduled to run 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the event is free to the public.

“It’s mostly going to be people who want to show off their trains,’’ Shannon said.

There’s actually more to this hobby than just the trains. Enthusiasts of model trains – don’t dare call them toy trains – are known to take months, even years, to create landscapes and scenery that goes with the displays.

The Train Society has a group effort that will be on display for whichg each member, or a small group of them, worked on a modular section. Each section can be disassembled and then reconstructed for shows.

In the Train Society’s case there are different scenes with the modular sections. One section has a dirt race track with midget racers while the next scene has an industrial complex with a coal loader followed by a section with an airport theme. Members worked on a large section located in Shannon’s garage but he also will have his own personal display at the show.

Both of these displays feature trains which are O-gauge.

For those who aren’t model train buffs, the gauge of each model is the distance between the running rails of the track. The scale of the model is the ratio of size between the model compared to that of an actual full-size train. A scale model railway may have several track gauges in one scale.

In model railroading the most popular gauges are HO and O. Most O-gauge models are 1:48 scale while HO-gauge runs about half the size at 1:87 scale.

For a time HO was king of model trains but O has made a strong comeback, said Dave Davis, founder of the Train Society.

“Everything is now all computerized for O-gauge and there’s more accessories for them,’’ Davis said.

A Sharon resident, Davis retired as a United Methodist pastor; his last church was Wheatland-Farrell United Methodist Church in Wheatland. When working as a preacher, Christmas was a busy time for him, which didn’t allow for much diversions.

Deciding to pick up on his childhood hobby, he got a G-gauge model train – a true giant which runs around 1:32 scale. He ran out of room at his home so his wife, a pre-school teacher at Buhl Rec Center, said he should try setting it up at the Sharon club for others to see.

“Others into model railroading saw it and wanted to bring theirs to the club,’’ Davis said. “That was the start of the first train show.’’

Both men hope to entice others into the hobby. Top-tier displays filled with all kinds of gadgets can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. But the typical novice entering the hobby can fetch a train with layout in the $300 to $350 range.

“This is a hobby that has it all – carpentry, electrical work, painting and construction, just to name a few,’’ Shannon said. “We need to get those young people away from those Game Boys.’’

2015

Eighth Annual Train Show:

December 12-13 2015: Eighth Annual Train Show: Contributed: Ken Rogers, Dave Davis, Chuck Dugan and Jonathan Wichter work on the Buhl Model Train Society’s modular layout for the 8th Annual Holiday Train Exhibit.

This year’s theme is “Kids, Let’s Put Trains Together.” The gymnasium will be filled to capacity with more and larger displays and operating layouts. The train society’s 10-by-16-foot modular layout will again be featured with Lionel trains in constant motion. Also returning this year is “What’s it Worth,” with owners of toy trains, old and not-so-old, invited to bring them to experienced train enthusiasts to find out their value.

Train society members will offer for sale Buhl Model Train Society T-shirts and George Dell pen and ink drawing prints of locomotives and other railroad scenes. Proceeds from the sales will go toward next year’s event. Door prizes will be waiting for several lucky persons.

Each year the model train society fills the gymnasium with model train layouts brought in by community members. More than 1,000 people are expected to visit the displays. 

2016

Nineth Annual Train Show:

November 6 2016: Meeting with new Director
Today we meet with the new director of Buhl Community Recreation Center in the Wilson Room. Along with the Sharon Herald News Paper taking photos. Dave Davis, Jonathan Wichter, Ken Rogers, and Tom Rookie. We Show the new director what is goes into setting up the train show each year.

December 10-11 2016: Nineth Annual Train Show
For the 9th Christmas show, approximately 30 train displays are expected. The free show will run from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Buhl Community Recreation Center gym, 28 N. Pine St. in Sharon.

Just as an astronomer gets irked at being called an astrologist, never call a model train display a “toy train set.” Model train enthusiasts pride themselves in creating intricate displays requiring a combination of architecture and construction skills.

This hobby also requires incredible patience, as displays are meant to recreate places and events with deft precision. Some of the better displays can cost thousands of dollars with top-notch versions hitting in the tens of thousands.

To get things chugging along, club member Ken Rodgers took one of his model displays for a tryout.

It includes miniature trees, houses and a small airport. All of it was hand-crafted by Rodgers over a two-month period.

“I wanted it to have a town and country look,’’ Rodgers said. “I used my imagination to create this. I like racetracks, so I put one in my display.’’

The show is definitely family-oriented and is enjoyed by people of all ages, said Tom Rookey, a club member.

“And you don’t have to be into model trains to enjoy the show,’’ Rookey said. 

2017

Tenth Annual Train Show:

November 11 2017: Hermitage Historical Society

Contributed: Ken Rogers with his wife, Tom Rookie, Denny Gsell, Chuck Dugan, Ted Fiasher  and
Jonathan Wichter.

The Historical Society ever year has their victorian home filled with Christmas trees that are decorated  diffrent ways, so we asked if we could decorate a Christmas tree that is model railroad themed.

December 9-10 2017: Tenth Annual Train Show
Jonathan Wichter, president of the Buhl Model Train Society, watches as a model train chugs along the tracks at his home model train display. Members of the organization will have train set displays this weekend at the Buhl Community Recreation Center Gymnasium in Sharon. The event is free and open to the public.

More than 30 train buffs are expected to showcase their model train sets at the event, which begins this Friday at the Buhl Community Recreation Center.

“You’ll see lots of different model trains in terms of size and scenery,’’ said Jonathan Wichter, Buhl Model Train Society president.

But modern train sets have more going for them than just looks. Wichter’s own home set has a passenger train where the voice of a conductor barks out when the train arrives at a station.

Of course, the real work is creating the accompanying display around the track, Wichter said. Part of his layout includes painstaking details of a city with fastfood restaurants, banks and retailers.

“It took me more than a year to do this,’’ he said.

Like Wichter, many model rail hobbyists have permanent displays at their homes. These exhibits are delicate and too big to move. As a result, they create “on the road’’ displays, which can easily be transported.

This is a hobby where size really does count. Model train sets are sold based on size. 

What has changed the hobby dramatically is the introduction of digital technology. Older sets with wires often meant gates in displays had to be moved manually.

“With digital sets all you have to do is push a button,’’ Rookey said. “You can also easily turn a display from daytime to night with street and window lights coming on.”

A common question Rookey gets is how much do model train sets cost. Just like General Motors cars, prices can vary from an entry-level Chevrolet all the way up to a fully loaded Cadillac.

“I bought a train set two years ago for around $80,’’ Rookey said. “And that included the locomotive, rails, the power unit and six cars. And then my wife bought me two locomotives – just two locomotives – and paid $100 for the pair.’’

2018

Eleventh Annual Train Show:

January 31 2018: On-liine Store
I would like to let you know that have partnered with Cafepress to sale our products to you. I know in the past we only had calendars and t-shirts with only limited on sizes, but now thier is more to choose from. You can go to our website and click on the shopping bag on the main page.

February 15 2018: On-line December booking of train show
This new booking form will save time and money. No one has to mail the form and the money in. We are using PayPal to process payments. This will help us run the Train Show a lot smoother, but if you want to do it the old way. The train show form can still be downloaded here on our site in our downloads area.

October 11 2018: Brookfield Historical Society
Ken Rogers and I were happy to be invited to one of the Brookfield Historical Society meetings this evening. To be able to show off Gorge Dell’s artwork to the community and to talk about his Legacy that he left behind. We are also happy to announce our new partnership with the president of the Brookfield Historical Society as we donate of one of George’s artworks to hang in the administration building in Brookfield Ohio

November 3-4 2018: Hermitage Historical Society
Photo will be posted soon.
The theme this year is Traditional Christmas.

December 15-16 2018: Eleventh Annual Train Show
We also welcome back Tim Shultz, which was overseas fighting for our freedom this year. He is going to show off his N scale modular layout. Thanks to the Buhl Recreation Community Center for offering pizza, drinks, and snacks. We had a great time this year and our vendors sold a lot of trains and accessories. They’re where a lot of different sized model trains on display that filled up the gym.

This train display was put together by Bob Shannon, Jonathan Wichter, and Paul Baker. This Christmas village has everything in it when you think of the holidays.

We were also happy that kids with special needs or handicap had a good time with big smiles across their faces. All of here at out train club enjoyed you and your family for coming this year. Let’s also thank our members and helps that made this show happen.

2019

The Future

Hopefully we can continue our love of model trains at Buhl Rececreation Center.

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