‘Model’ citizens: Delaware Seaside Railroad Club at home at Clayton Crossing

Del seaside RR club nelson davison good one ...

Delaware Seaside Railroad Club member Nelson Davison sits at the controls of one of the club’s train layouts.

DAGSBORO – Under spousal pressure, Nelson Davison decided to kick the habit.

Eventually, tobacco gave way to another addiction: model trains.

“I have always liked them,” said Mr. Davison. “My second wife got me started in it. She said, ‘Why don’t you stop smoking cigarettes and use the money to buy trains?’ So I did.”

Mr. Davison is an active member of the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club Inc.,

So is Ocean View resident Steve Cawunder, whose family ties include connections to a famous New York City commuter train hub.

“My grandfather was head track-master in Grand Central for quite a few years,” said Mr. Cawunder. “My mother used to stick me on the train in Baltimore and he would grab me off at Grand Central. They put a luggage tag on me. He would grab me off of there, and then put me on a train going up the Hudson (River). My uncle would grab me off there.”

del seaside RR club steve cawunder ocean view

Steve Cawunder is among the 70-plus members of the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club.

That’s how they moved me around.

“Then my grandfather bought me my first set of trains. As a matter of fact I still have them in the box,” Mr. Cawunder added. “Then I got away from it. I started fishing and snow skiing … when I retired five years ago I moved down here and said, ‘Now I’m going to play with my trains.’”

Angola resident John Hodges, the club’s president, is another “model” citizen.

“Our mission in our club is really to promote and educate the public on the general hobby of model railroading,” said Mr. Hodges.

Formed in 2003, the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club now calls rental space in Clayton Crossing in Dagsboro its home.

Until this past July, the club had been literally homeless since losing its second-floor home in May 2011 when the Old Georgetown Train Station was heavily damaged by fire.

“We didn’t have a home,” said Mr. Davison. “We have a member who graciously donated portions of her garage for us to store things in.”

“We were working quite well and prosperously with the Historic Georgetown Association at the Georgetown Train Station, until we had the disaster of the fire in 2011,” said Mr. Hodges, noting the greatest loss was a classic Marx Train set. “It was a collector’s piece. It was a shame to have lost that; that really was the only irreplaceable thing that we had.”

Now, the club has a Dagsboro home, easily accessible off U.S. 113.

“With the generosity of some of the community and people giving us huge donations of trains we were able to start to rebuild our assets. Then we got this opportunity here in Dagsboro to occupy this space,” said Mr. Hodges, adding the property owner “is happy to fill the space with us and we are happy to be there.”

Club monthly meetings – held on the second Tuesday – are still held at South Coastal Library in Bethany.

Recent interest has pushed club membership to 72.

The club, which was granted 501(c) (3) non-profit status in 2007, opens its doors to the public on Saturdays from 10 to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There is no admission fee on Saturdays or Wednesdays; donations – monetary and/or equipment – are welcome as are new members.

On display are a series of working, functional layouts: G-gauge, H.O.-gauge, S-gauge and O-gauge. Future plans are to have an N-gauge.

Layouts have local/area themes through supporting props, scenery and accessories.

A featured attraction: a Thomas the Tank Engine, which plays into the club’s mission to stir interest among children – as well as adults.

“What we do is we give them a certificate saying that they are an engineer,” said Mr. Cawunder. “We are trying to do is cater to kids, and educate kids on this stuff, and adults too. We’re trying to get them involved in the hobby.”

“It’s a smaller unit but the kids can run it,” said Mr. Davison.

The club has an outreach, educational element that includes school projects – teaching school children how to design and build a model railroad – plus two train shows annually and community workshops and displays.

“We’re going to start working with Boy Scout troops, for the model railroading merit badge hopefully here soon,” said Mr. Cawunder.

Mr. Hodges said the club hopes to soon resurrect an after-school program, or maybe encourage school field trips. “We were doing that very successfully at the station,” said Mr. Hodges, whose childhood passion for model trains was rekindled when he retired to Sussex County after service with the U.S. Air Force and a 30-year career with IBM as a computer service technician. “I had model trains as a kid. I had my own layout that I basically built myself. It was something that I always got more to go along with it … whenever I had a birthday or at Christmas time; that is what I wanted. And it kind of taught me a little bit stuff of what I would be doing in a career.”

The club annually features holiday displays, including one at the Georgetown Public Library.

It also offers a special “All Aboard” welcome to senior citizens, including those with disabilities served by Easter Seals.

“The Georgetown Train Station had one big drawback … it was upstairs with no elevator,” said Mr. Hodges.

On Dec. 8, there’s a fundraising effort in collaboration with the historic Clayton – Dagsboro’s landmark theater.

Plans are in the works to have children first visit the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club, then head over to the Clayton where The Polar Express, a musical holiday fantasy film based on a children’s book, will be shown. A special visit by Santa Claus visit will cap that evening.

In addition to community support recognized through wall plaques, the club holds two major train show fundraisers, in May and September at the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company.

“And any donations or equipment that we don’t need, we sell,” said Mr. Davison.

Del seaside RR club sponsors wall

Framed salutes to business and community sponsorship support hang on a wall at the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club’s home at Clayton Crossing in Dagsboro.

Mr. Hodges said the club is truly grateful for all of sponsorship support.

“Our sponsorships range from $100 to $250. We have 41 sponsors on the wall,” said Mr. Hodges. “This is the first time we’ve actually reached out and tried to get that kind of support. And it has been really well received. It is heartening to see the number of small businesses that come out and give you a hand.”

Members welcome those interested in model railroading and are willing to offer assistance, information, tips and advice.

“Come on over and join us. We’ll be more than happy to help you,” said Mr. Davison. “We’ve got four or five layouts here.”

“We do offer a service for people that have trains in storage … or in their attic and want to either get rid of them, find out what they are worth or see if they are any good,” said Mr. Hodges. “We don’t charge for that service.”

Through schooling with Lionel and Mike’s Train Shop, Mr. Hodges has taken his hobby further on down the line.

“I even have a train repair business that I sort of do as a sideline hobby thing,” he said.

CLUB CONTACTS:

For more information on the Delaware Seaside Railroad Club, contact John Hodges, club president, at 945-1627, or visit the club website: www.delawareseasiderailroadclub.com/.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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