The youth club idea came after museum trustees discussed the need to have youth involved in the hobby. Not only would it pass on the operation of the four layouts at the museum, but it would breathe new life into it as well.
“It is a good thing to have the kids involved,” said museum president Lew Speece.
The club officially began a month ago, but for the two young men who are the first members, the activities date back further than that.
Josh Cohen has been coming to the museum for over a year. He lives in Stow, Ohio, but when he visits his grandparents Bill and Kathy Edwards, he takes time out to head to the museum. He has been coming every other Saturday since he first visited. He not only enjoys the hobby, but has become somewhat of a resident expert on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Cohen cares about the trains and museum and has even played an important role in bringing in funds. During the Memorial Day event at the museum, Cohen gave tours of the basement and at the end would say “don’t forget to donate.” He pointed to a collection jar that helps fund the model railroad project.
“His grandmother came up to me and said if Josh is bothering anyone, let me know,” said museum trustee Mike Platton. “I told her, leave him go, he is doing a good job.”
He did just that and brought in more than $40 that day.
Cohen is not alone in the efforts, but has a new friends in Joe Conroy Jr. of Canfield, who loves coming to the museum with his father Joe Sr. Like Cohen, Conroy frequented the museum and spent a lot of time with the railroad displays. In fact, each week he visited the museum, he presented a new detail he learned about local railroads. Like Cohen, Conroy had quickly become an expert at rail activity.
With such a deep interest in the hobby, forming a youth club made sense. The club became official in August and ground rules are still being laid out. The adult leaders of the club have become “lead welders” since they are the ones that do a lot of troubleshooting and repairs, like soldering connections or wiring control panels.
As for the young men, they are starting out as “gandy-dancers” a term used to describe the men who hand-laid rails during the first half of the 20th century. The goal in the club is to rise to the rank of engineer by taking tests. One upcoming test is to make a preset number of loops around the larger layout with a passenger train, then stop so the middle passenger car is at the station. This all has to be done in a specified time. If they run the train too fast, or too slow, they will arrive too early or too late. If they can come within a few seconds, then they proved the can operate the engine at prototypical speeds.
While it is about having fun, the young men are learning a lot. Every meeting is geared around another aspect of model railroading. There are lessons on creating life-like trees, switching operations and engine performance.
“They can learn a lot,” Platton said. “But I think they already know a lot when it comes to the real trains.”
It is not only a club centered around just the young men, but also around adults as well. Conroy’s father (Joe Sr.) comes with his son and is helping build the layouts.
“I think this is great,” he said. “And it is a great way to spend time with my son.”
For Cohen, it is all about his grandparents. Bill enjoys attending the Saturday sessions and is proving to be an asset with wiring the layouts. Kathy enjoys helping with the trees and shrubs on the layout.
The club meets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday and anyone who shows up is sure to get a personal tour, handled by a member of the museum’s new railroad club.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Josh Cohen and Joe Conroy Jr. check the O gauge engines on the War Veterans Museum model railroad layout. The two young railroad enthusiasts are part of the museum’s youth railroad club in which they learn about planning, building and operating model railroads.