model train set on track

And the Trains Go Round and Round!

e*Train Issue: Jun 2017   |   Posted in:

Vintage Wegmans Store, circa 1920
Wegmans Supermarket, circa 2017

By Carol R. McGinnis, HE95-41066 Summer 2017 

Many people remember their Christmas trains.  Yeah, the ones that get pulled out of the boxes in the basement or the attic, and then set up around the tree every December!  Well there is a regional supermarket chain that has brought a G gauge train back into prominence by doing just that.  As it turns out, it goes round and round the dairy department in many Wegmans Food Market stores including Columbia, Maryland!

With 92 stores: 46 in New York, 17 in Pennsylvania, 7 in New Jersey, 10 in Virginia, 8 in Maryland, and 4 in Massachusetts, these stores offer restaurant-quality prepared foods, a wide variety of fresh produce, artisan breads, fresh-caught seafood, deli products and imported cheeses, international foods, plus all the grocery, dairy, frozen, and household items usually found in a supermarket. Wegmans is one of the largest private companies in the U.S. That makes sense since it employs over 47,000 employees, had annual sales in 2016 of $8.3 billion, and is ranked 30th on the 2017 Supermarket News list of the Top 75 Supermarkets based on sales volume.

Through all of this success, Wegmans remains a family-owned company. In 1916 John (Wegmans Chairman Danny’s great-uncle) and Walter (Danny’s grandfather) started a food business, and then expanded to a store that got national attention due to innovations like a “300 seat cafeteria, refrigerated food display windows, and vaporized water to keep the produce fresh.” In 1918, Danny’s father, Robert Wegman, was “born into the business.”  Wegmans is headquartered in Rochester, NY. Currently, Danny Wegman is chairman; and Colleen Wegman, Danny’s daughter, is CEO and president. Danny’s daughter Nicole Wegman is Sr. vice president. Robert Wegman was chairman until his death in April 2006.    

As inquiring minds want to know, contact was made with Valerie Fox who works with Wegmans as a Media Relations Coordinator. Valerie shared the following:

Model trains were first introduced at Wegmans Food Markets in the early 1990s to create some fun and animation on the non-perishable side of the store.  This is, of course, where there isn’t traditionally as much activity as you might see in areas like the bakery, produce, and prepared foods departments. Out of our 92 stores, 62 of them have a train. In newer stores, the train is located in the back of the store, suspended from the ceiling above the dairy department.

The trains are G-Scale USA Trains and they’re purchased from Dan’s Crafts and Things in Rochester, NY, where our headquarters is located. Wegmans’ marketing department provides stickers and labels to decorate the cars and they’re applied by Dan’s Crafts and Things. About six years ago, we rebranded the design to align with our focus on organics and partnering with family farms near our stores. Older models may be upgraded to this design as replacements are needed.

The engines, in some cases, reflect the real engines that run through a store’s market area. The stores each receive a train set with two engines: one with sound and one without. The engine with sound has contact points along the track that signal for a modern horn blast or a bell. Trains in our newer stores have a caboose and the selection of train cars may vary by store.

Our service provider is SRK Mid-Atlantic from Ashburn, VA. The train systems are checked every five weeks. This includes inspection and replacement as needed for the electrical systems (contacts, controllers, amps/voltage), wheel and axle lubrication, track condition, and motor block condition. Dust and debris are removed, and side Plexiglas guards are also cleaned during the inspection.

We try to keep fewer than 10 cars pulled per train and the trains should run no more than 14 hours per day. This helps reduce the wear and tear of the engine, track, and wheel systems. 

Families and model train enthusiasts of all ages enjoy watching the train. Wegmans has plans to install more as it opens three new stores this year in Hanover NJ (July 23), Montvale NJ (September 24), and Medford MA (November 5).

Valerie was quite helpful in the creation of this article.  It is encouraging to see that a local company is making good. Building, expanding, and making the most of technology and innovation, that which drives the experience.  It’s even more exciting to see the use of toy trains in a major market!   Perhaps the train is running in the right direction!