‘Train conductors’ share their enthusiasm

Published 10:39 am Friday, April 7, 2017

For Down Home Day, the trains will be running on time — the electric model trains, to be precise.

This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors at the Southampton Heritage Village can stop in the Agriculture and Forestry Museum to see an extended set-up of model trains coursing on two different levels, one of which is intended to be Courtland from decades gone by.

Best of all, you don’t need a ticket to view the display.

For youngsters and young at heart, there’ll be a separate set-up where they can “drive” the trains.

All of this — the train cars, model towns, farms, trees and even photographs of train depots — are the culmination of a small band of brothers of the rails: Al Briggs, Dennis Burgess, James Councill, Doug Prince, Jimmy Holland and Bill Vick. Each of them, they said, has donated different features to the presentation. Other generous donors include: Elliott Cobb, not present at the interview, has donated a train. Suzette Carpenito gave a train in memory of her late husband. Pat. Charlie Edge had given the Plexiglass guard. Mary Kay Miller gave her husband’s John Deere train. Watt Jones contributed some money. Brad Rock cleaned the engines.

Al Briggs remembered his first train — “Everybody does” — which was given by his father in 1947. His was a Lionel work train that had a working crane and caboose. Today, he has own layout at home.

Jimmy Holland brought items from his own collection, such three houses, a school and even an accident scene.

“I’ve had trains forever,” said Holland. “If it weren’t for [real] trains, a lot of communities wouldn’t have developed.”

Vick pointed out that around the set-up are the pictures of train stations in Franklin and Southampton County.

Holland added, “It’s just something that brings back your childhood to you.”

James Councill, who grew up in Capron, said he’s got a whole room in his house devoted to a display. His first train was a Lionel nickel-plated set.

“I just love the railroads,” he said. “I don’t know why I didn’t work for them.”

Doug Prince said he was fortunate to find a good train about $100. Usually they can run up to $200-plus; a Norfolk and Western set can easily go for $500 to $600.

Dennis Burgess shared that he has a Lionel 202 diesel that still runs.

To learn more about the trains, and maybe catch some of that enthusiasm, come out to the event.

For more information, call 654-6785.