They seem to be as much a part of Christmas as candy canes and carols, these miniature locomotives that chug around in circles or across vast basement layouts.
With the spirit of the season kicking off in downtown Clarksburg Friday with the annual Christmas parade, the Clarksburg Model Railroad Club will be opening its doors in the basement of the Starving Artists space at the corner of West Main and Fourth streets to allow visitors a glimpse into their own imaginations. The room featuring a variety of trains traveling over differing dioramas will open around 4 p.m. Friday and remain open through the end of the parade.
“We're part of the downtown nation,” said club member Bill Donini. “We want to be involved in what's going on downtown.”
The group, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, will also be a part of the parade, as a flatbed trailer will be hauling a 24-foot wood train all decorated in its Christmas splendor.
“Clarksburg used to be a center for the railroad,” club secretary Gene Larosa said. “We're trying to recreate what Clarksburg used to look like.”
One of the layouts features a scale replica of the Cook Mine (above with Larosa, left, and Donini, right), which operated in the Meadowbrook area between 1916 and 1949. The mine employed about 600 people during its heyday, many of whom lived right there on the property in company owned housing.
“We wanted to bring it back so people could see what a working mine looked like,” Larosa said.
They admit they are also just “a bunch of old guys with toys,” having fun with others who favor a similar passion while trying to recreate some special moments in their childhood or traditions of setting up a route 'round the Christmas tree.
“You can see the wheels turning in their heads and their imagination,” Larosa said. “It's wonderment. They see trains in the big world. Those trains are so big, they can't visualize it. This makes them think. You see that big smile. That's what we're after.”