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All Aboard-A Classic Article from the New Castle News
Model train display takes visitors back to the '50s
(Click on links to see photos.)
The Underground Railroad Shoppe's train layout room is a very special place that keeps children and adults coming back year after year during the Christmas season. Owner Lou Palumbo opened the layout room in 1985 and makes yearly upgrades and changes.
"We reproduce life in the slow lane," Lou said of the layout. "Everything seems so peaceful. There are no murders or muggings and we have a hospital that's never busy. Only good things happen here. One man was heard saying that he went into the Underground Railroad a man and came out a boy."
The theme is "A Slice Of Americana" and focuses on the life and times of the 1950's. The 28x16 foot setup has five scene-a-ramas, such a a coal mine underneath the layout so children can observe the action at their own level.
As onlookers try to to soak up all the scenery and movement, the 12 trains controlled by computer constantly wind through, occasionally blasting a whistle while old-time carnival music plays in the background. The entire scene is enhanced by lighting, which depicts daylight, dusk and evening. A large scale incline features lanterns emitting a red glow.
When the lights dimmed, I got a nighttime view of symbols of a bygone era including a Texaco service station, a used car lot surrounded by white lights, a McDonald's advertising 15-cent hamburgers and the Rollerama.
Just then, a conductor's voice announced several train stops.
There's a residential area, and, in the metropolitan section, King Kong perches atop the Empire State Building. A ball representing the year 2000 drops from the Times Square building, just like one does in the Big Apple on New Year's Eve. [Take the subway to get home.]
It's the details that make this display really special and there are people everywhere. One "family" even hosts a garage sale. [Some of the houses might be haunted!]
From the Harley Davidson shop, yellow cab, the Charles Chips truck, dinerds, vintage cars and steel mill, everything is authentically depicted.
At the movie theater next to the corner pharmacy, the marquee reads "Miracle on One Village Plaza," while a Christmas Parade lines up out front. At Dinah's Drive-In with curb service, a waitress carries a tray of hamburgers. [And yes, there's even a Starbucks here!]
A tunnel runs through mountains, created with bed sheets hardened with plaster, and a ski chalet and skiers are nestled in those hills. Skaters waltz across a frozen pond, their movements controlled by magnets.
An amusement park features 17 totally operational rides, including helicopters, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and titl-a-whirl, hand-built, some by Palumbo and others by Ed Jones. The miniature parachute ride is one of only two known to exist.
A farm contains a cattle crossing, a woman hanging clothes, chickens and goats.
"Kids like it, adults love it, " Palumbo summed up the display.
(excerpted from the New Castle News, November 30, 1999. Written by Lugene Hudson.)