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All aboard!

Model railroad train club chugs merrily along

Created date

December 16th, 2014
(From left) Betty Geikler, Rudy Stroh, Bob Swan, and Gordon Lefever, members of the Ann’s Choice Model Railroad Club, prepare to test a train on the track in the club’s workroom.
(From left) Betty Geikler, Rudy Stroh, Bob Swan, a

In November, the Choice Model Railroad Club mounted its annual holiday train display in the Village Clubhouse lobby.

The display is a much-anticipated tradition at the Erickson Living community in Bucks County, Pa. For many residents and visitors, the display calls up memories of their own train sets circling beneath a family Christmas tree.

Of the three sets in the club’s display, member Rudy Stroh’s Reading Crusader draws the most attention. Not only does it chug and whistle and smoke, it’s a tiny replica of an actual train people rode for trips from Philadelphia to New York City.

Rudy keeps some of his other rolling stock, his prized Stroh’s Beer boxcars, on display in the second bedroom of his apartment home.

Everyone in the club helps with the holiday setup. Betty Geikler arranges the extensive scenery: miniature houses, shops, trees, and trolleys create a tiny village for the trains to travel through and around. 

There’s even a carnival complete with Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and roller coaster on a “hill” above the town. Visiting grandchildren are mesmerized.

The holiday display comes down in January, but all three of the clubhouses boast permanent displays.

For aficionados, member Gordon Lefever says the club owns five layouts of different gauges. Four are always on display: Liberty Commons Clubhouse displays an N and an HO gauge, Keystone an S, and Village an HO. 

Train club reignites an early love

The group keeps its trains in good running order. In its workroom, members tinker, repair, store, and test their equipment. 

“The club reignites an interest that might have dwindled through the years,” says Gordon. “Having that available again at Ann’s Choice takes you back to an early love.”

“I was thrilled to learn there was a train club,” Betty says. Although she moved to Ann’s Choice mainly because every apartment home comes equipped with a washer and dryer, “The train club was another thing in the community’s favor.” 

She met Rudy during her first visit to campus. When he encouraged her to bring her trains to Ann’s Choice, she knew the club would help her repair her dad’s kit-built sets that had been boxed up for 60 years.

Those boxes now sit in the club’s workroom, and Betty is learning about restoration. “It’s great fun to be a part of this,” she says.

Part of that fun is taking field trips to see other displays. The largest and most popular exhibit is in Chalfont; another is in Elizabethtown. 

At winter shows in Glenside and Hatboro, the group rents a booth. Members wear their Ann’s Choice train club T-shirts, talk shop with other train enthusiasts, and sell the club’s excess rolling stock. 

When people ask about the shirts, club president Bob Swan says members promote the club and Ann’s Choice both.