model train set on track

Giving Back to a Local Children’s Museum

e*Train Issue: Sep 2023   |   Posted in: , ,

By David Glowczwski, TCA# 09-64154                            Fall e*Train 2023

This story is about one way I shared my love of model trains and gave back to my community at the same time. My name is David Glowczwski and I am a TCA member belonging to the Lone Star Division, Gulf Coast Chapter.

Last year I heard about a group of folks starting the process to build a Children’s Museum in my county. It was initiated in 2019 by a local Chambers County resident, Macy Middleton. Macy organized a board of directors made of 12 community leaders, and together they filed for and received their 501 c 3 Tax Exempt Status. They were generously gifted the use of the former Thriftee Food Center with a 15 year free lease, and their dream became a reality. The Chambers County Children’s Museum seeks to inspire discovery through innovative experiences and hands-on play.

I contacted the Museum director and volunteered to build an O Scale 4’X8’ Train layout for the children to operate at the museum. The board was excited about the idea and accepted my proposal. I was thrilled that a group of adults were actually interested in a train layout. We always hear about the decline of the hobby, but it’s been my experience that many folks like model trains but through the journey of life they have just forgotten about them! Then started the 10 month journey to design, procure, and build the layout.

My wife Kathy and I with the Layout

The board asked me to add items to the layout representing the cities, schools, and attractions of Chambers County.

 I started by visiting the local Wallisville Historical Museum to generate ideas. The first idea was to build a replica of Fort Anahauc where the ‘First Stand’ took place for the Texas War for Independence from Mexico. The fort was destroyed long ago but the foundations had been discovered some years back and an artist had depicted what it might have looked like originally. I obtained the photos and set about making a model using Styrofoam blocks, printed brick paper, and added cannons, horses, and a Mexican flag to the fort. It’s not a professional model but came out okay for my first attempt of such a job.

Fort Anahauc with a herd of deer

Next, I discovered that a Santa Fe Rail Road station had been restored in Winnie and I reconditioned an old Lionel 132 train station to model it. I repainted the station and added Santa Fe RR stickers, Winnie name plates, freight boxes, and of course a few people figures to the station.

And I added 1/43 scale diecast cars around the train station and the city park. I included a Hulk car, a car from a BatMan movie, an antique car, and vintage cars and trucks.

Then I decided to make a box car for each of the three school districts in Chambers County. This way children visiting the museum could readily identify with their own area schools. I had a local shop make vinyl stickers which I could place on box cars to advertise the local school districts. The stickers had the name of the school districts and the mascots. I had the stickers made large enough to cover whatever was printed originally on the Lionel box cars. The box cars I selected had colors close to the school colors.

I live close to an area called Barbers Hill where a large petro chemical industry resides. Barbers Hill was created by underground salt domes which have been utilized to store hydrocarbons by various companies. I found a plastic hill among my collection of scenery pieces and added it to one corner of the layout with the sign ‘Barbers Hill.’ Of course, I had to add a Lionelville Oil Derrick 6-12930 to further emphasize the importance of the area Petrochemical Industry.

Next, I thought about the role of farming and ranching in our county. I added a pasture of cows including a Long Horn Steer and another pasture of horses including a Buffalo for fun. And placed a dog on the opposite side of the Woodland Scenics A3000 barbwire fence facing the buffalo. Another dog was placed on the other side of a Woodlands Scenic W00A3003 chain link fence around the city park facing the cows.

Dog barking at Buffalo

City Park

The City Park was especially fun to model. I chose a Lionel Operating Pony Ride Animated scene 6-14210, a Lionel Park Picnic Tug of War scene 6-82107, a Lionel Animated Swing Set scene 6-82103, and a Lionel Mr. Spiff and Puddles the dog Operating Scene 6-24137. I painted a sidewalk down the middle of the park with benches and added people figures. It came out really interesting.

Dumbo and Friends

The town needed an attraction so I installed the Lionel Disney Operating Dumbo Pylon 6-24131. I knew the kids would enjoy the flying dumbo! Added a few Disney characters and O scale elephants to model Dumbo’s parents watching him.

The Lionel FasTrack was installed as a loop around the perimeter of the 4X8’ sheet of ¾” plywood. I also added a siding on one side to place rolling stock of interest. There I placed a flat car with a bulldozer, a K-Line Circus Flat with Circus Wagons K-69003, a Lionel gondola with scrap metal next to a Lionel 6560 Crane car. Directly above the siding track I installed a trolley using Lionel FasTrack Elevated trestle set 6-12038.

Each pair of eight green buttons is powered by a transformer in one of the four upper drawers. The green button activates the accessory as long as it is held on. The power to the accessory stops when the button is released. This way a child can enjoy the thrill of realizing activation of an accessory on the layout.

Lastly I added a TCA sticker to the back of a Lionel 6-12089 Billboard to advertise our club. The director also allowed me to add one of my business cards to a stationary billboard. I will have to wait and see if any business results from the card. (Maybe that one rare train piece will surface because of my efforts!)

Actual Museum opened the end of June, 2023