December 8, 2021

C’ville museum hosts display of model locomotives

Transfixed by trains

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Berrett Trabucco, 10, left, and his twin brother, Tucker, peer into the lighted passenger cars of the model train based on “The Polar Express” Saturday at the Central New York Living History Museum in Cortlandville.

CORTLANDVILLE — Doug Deer has been collecting model trains for the past 50 years.

The 66-year-old Cortland resident started getting train sets as Christmas gifts from his dad. They grew from a Christmastime display in Deer’s house to more than 100 sets on display year-round.

“When it got too big, I made it permanent because I couldn’t take it down every year,” Deer said.

Deer got the chance Saturday to show off some of his sets at the Central New York Living History Center’s semiannual Train Day.

It took Deer a week to build the eight sets on display, including a train that went around a Christmas tree with ornaments that had miniature train sets inside them.

The centerpiece of Deer’s displays was a large set that contained model buildings, cars and people. Buttons let kids start the train, light the buildings and activate the sawmill and other features.

Nine-year-old Mason Jenson of Cortland transfixed on the large display in the museum while 9-year-old Julian Jenson liked the vintage trains.

“Their uncle has some trains, and they’ve been around since they were babies,” said their mother, Michelle Jenson. “They’re infatuated with them.”

Other activities included coloring pictures of trains and listening to Homer Elementary School librarian Karen Keefe read “The Polar Express.”

Shayla Peppel, of Cortland, helps her son Henry, 2, get down from the cow catcher of a train Saturday at the Central New York Living History Museum.

Earl Randolph and his son, Bill, had their own trainset on display, with two sets of rails and trains going in circles on them. The setup re-creates one at Earl Randolph’s home.

“I’ve always enjoyed it,” the 78-year-old Earl Randolph said. “Since I’ve retired, I had more time to get into it. And it’s a fun pastime.”

“It’s just cool,” Bill Randolph said.

This was the museum’s first train day with a Christmas theme — previous events were in October and November. Kim Walsh, the organizer and a member of the Homeville Museum board, said attendance ranges from 20 to 60 people.

Sarah Dimare of Moravia brought her 2-year-old son, Cylis, who sat enraptured by the sets with Christmas cars.

“I took him to a train museum in Medina and he loved it,” Dimare said. “It’s good we don’t have to drive two hours for a train display.”