ALBANY TWP., Pa. - Long retired, Coach #72 sits behind the Kempton train station in Albany Township, Berks County.
The Atlantic City Railroad wood coach, built in 1889, had quite a run. At one time, it was a tool car on the Ironton Railroad, then one of three passenger cars for the tourist line. She came to rest in the backyard of the WK&S Railroad. It was a museum for awhile, and then someone had an idea.
A train within a train. A model railroad inside a real railroad car. It's HO scale, built by members of the Schuylkill & Lehigh Model Railroad Club. The initial run was in 1974.
There's a lot of camaraderie inside the rail car. They come for their love of trains.
"So '73 is when I first started coming around, and I actually worked for the real railroad at that time," said Jim Cocuzza, the president of the Schuylkill & Lehigh Model Railroad Club. "I grew up in northeast Reading, and the railroad yards were practically in my backyard, so it was something that you saw every day."
The layout is a loose representation of the Schuylkill and Lehigh branch of the Reading Railroad that is similar to eastern railroads in the steam era and beginnings of diesel. It's a double track.
"I refer to it as a double figure-8, over and under," said club member Everette Carr.
It goes around twice at each end. One train goes over the bridge while one goes under. They said if you're good, you can run five trains at once.
"I first got involved with trains when I was 6 years old. I got a Lionel steam engine at Christmas when I was 6," Carr recalled, "and I've had train layouts off and on."
The beauty of belonging to a club is you can run your trains here anytime.
In a nod to all those volunteer hours (they planted 48 trees on Arbor Day), you get your own space. All of the buildings are named for club members, or those who used to be.
"There's Blanks Moving and Storage," Cocuzza explained. "We have a guy named Sal. We have Sal Monello's Pizza."
"At the very far end, there's Carr's Grocery," Carr said. "My grandfather owned a grocery store in Mississippi, so Carr's Grocery is on the layout."
It's all free to see. There are donation boxes are at the end of the car.
Like most places, there are a few rules you'll have to follow on a visit. Some rules take you back to 1889, when spitting was forbidden. It's a reminder that the model railroad you're enjoying was once a real one, just a long time ago.
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