By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
A working train village in downtown Grove City set up annually for the holidays has grown this year – and will open to the public on Saturday.
“This is much more sophisticated,” said Dave McCreary, 67, who’s worked on the train set since its first year at Tower Presbyterian Church on 248 S. Broad St.
“It’s pretty close to 400 feet of track,” he noted.
The train will be unveiled at the church’s annual “All Aboard Bazaar and Train Display” at Williamson Hall in the lower level, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 9.
The bazaar will also have small shops and food areas set up, including The Whistle Stop Café, Pie Shoppe, Book Sale and Rada Cutlery – as well as homemade bake goods, gift baskets and handmade/collectible items.
However, the train has “become more the center of attention now,” he said.
The idea to have the choo choos during the bazaar was the idea of church member Ron Churchill in 2007, who worked on it for many years and still gives construction input, McCreary said.
The set was basic its first year; set in a Sunday school classroom in one of the alcoves in Williamson, which has sturdy accordion doors that open to the display during the Christmas season, then close until workers get it running again the following year.
Since 2007, it has continued to grow and grow.
McCreary said about one-third of the trains in the set that belong to him are over 60 years old. Brothers Taylor, 16, and Reece, 24, Coulter have been working on the display three and four years, respectively, with the help of Taylor’s friend Tanner McKnight, 15.
This year’s set has multiple levels with the regular miniature landscaping, homes, town buildings, farm equipment and toy cows that move – to name a few.
New items in this year’s display include an oil refinery, barrel loader, log loader, box loader, crane, bridge, coal tower and two more tracks, McCreary said. About six trains pull around 100 miniature cars for passengers, oil tanks, coal, mail, pipe and lumber.
The majority of the display crew has worked on the set for three months, McCreary added.
Last year’s display drew about 200 kids during the season, not including adults. The local library and Grove City College’s pre-school also have special viewings of the set. The bazaar brings in a steady flow of guests to watch the trains and visit the makeshift shops.
“It’s kind of mesmerizing,” McCreary said. About 40 years ago, he received a circus train from his wife as an anniversary present, which was added to a couple of American Flyer trains he had, he said. “I now have 20 engines,” he noted, with many newer items bought the past two years.
“You get more things for the kids to watch. That’s what leads you down this road,” McCreary said. “You just keep buying.”
Taylor, who is a junior in high school, got hooked on trains as a young boy by his brother. He enjoys keeping the historical ones running, since historic preservation is a hobby of his family, he said.
He and his brother built the infrastructure/framing for the train display. Reece Coulter works as an electrician; McCreary is a retired electrical engineer.
McCreary enjoys “building things, putting it together and make it work like I did in real life, and now I do it in the make-believe world – and to make it look good,” he said.
“And we get to show it off for everybody,” Taylor added.
“We really enjoy showing it and talking to people who like to reminisce,” McCreary said.
Besides Saturday’s bazaar, the train display will have additional public viewings from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 16 during “Home 4 the Holidays” in Olde Town; 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 7 during Light Up Night in Olde Town; and 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 11 and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 21.