NORTH EAST — In spite of a lower turnout, the annual Family Train Day at St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church still raised $1,600, which the church will use to support the St. Vincent’s Center for Children with Disabilities in Haiti.
“Our head count was about half (compared) to last year,” said George Kaplan, who took the lead on the event held Saturday in the fellowship hall of the historic church in North East. Kaplan said due to support from Thrivent Financial, which provided a $250 grant for food and publicity, and Just Trains of Delaware, which donated $300 in door prizes, the donations at the door can go almost exclusively to the mission project.
Kaplan was also one of the 10 train fans offering a layout for visitors.
“This is not an environmentally friendly lay out,” the Colora man, known for his drive toward good stewardship of the earth, said pointing to his new oil derricks on the layout.
The goal each year, in an effort to keep the show fresh, is to get at least one new layout, Kaplan said. This year’s debut layout was from Drew Warrington.
“This is a digital layout,” Warrington, 14, said. “All the trains have chips. You can have two trains on the same track and blow the whistle on one and not the other.”
“It’s a really cool technology,” he added.
Warrington said he’s been a train buff all his life.
“Since I came out of the womb,” the Wilmington, Del. teen said, causing his mother to roll her eyes.
Family Train Day began at 10 a.m. Warrington was not certain if he’d be ready.
“I literally got this done yesterday,” he said, adding, “It was down to the wire.”
He built the layout from scratch, laying each inch of track and each foot of wire. With the addition of a simple diagram he allowed the curious to have a seat and run the controls, which made Piper Bish, 5, very happy.
“She wants to be a train conductor when she grows up. She loves trains,” Lauren Bish, Piper’s mom, explained. At home in Chesapeake City Piper has lots of Thomas the Tank Engine toys. However, this was her first time at the controls of a working layout.
Warrington explained what each dial would do and told Bish the visual clues to look for to run the trains successfully.
Kallie Lewis, 9, from Elkton, also took a turn.
“I think it was really cool,” Lewis said.
At a nearby table Jim Siglow had three different sized trains running; HO, G and N. The G-scale, or garden train, was a recent purchase.
“This guy had it in a box with a bunch of track for $20,” Siglow, of North East, said. He couldn’t walk away from the deal.
There were circus trains, trains made out of Legos and even one layout that held a train layout and slot car track.
Back at the Warrington layout, Piper Bish had decided she wanted to up her game and would probably ask for a working layout of her own next Christmas.
“Probably,” she said, while staring at the tiny train under her control.