EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Some boys never outgrow their toys.
In Egg Harbor Township, members of the Shoreline Model Railroad Club have turned a school-side trailer into a modeler’s dream, complete with dozens of trains, switches galore and ornate sceneries of everything from a carnival to an English countryside.
They’ve come a long way. They club came to terms with Atlantic Christian to use the space about three years ago. Then, they used a simple layout spread out over a few folding tables and white linens to educate students about the history and function of railroads, model and otherwise.
The transformation that’s taken place since then is testament to the dedication of the club’s members. The display now includes rolling hills and landscapes that show meticulous detail. The trains that run along each track range from those manufactured recently to antiques — 100-year-old toys — maintained with a clockmaker’s precision.
The labor of love comes from a desire to share their hobby with the community.
“I’ve been at it since before I could walk,” Dick Yard, one of the club’s members, said Saturday. “My dad got me my first set in 1937, and I still have it. I learned how to restore and repair, and there’s not a lot I can’t do. Except the electrical work.”
But there’s a guy for that.
On Saturday, there were six club members, each with their own skill set. They complement each other, and while some may sell themselves short — Yard is often tasked with repairing model trains sent to him from all over the country — the roles they fill have helped turn the small green trailer they occupy into a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in model trains.
“We learn from each other,” said club member Jim Lincoln, wearing a hat embroidered with the words "Still Plays with Trains" on it. “We’re constantly trading off on the things we do.”
And the club would like the public to see those things. The Shoreline Model Railroad Club has an open house every Saturday through January from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is no fee and visitors are encouraged to look around and ask questions. Yard said the club is even flexible to opening their doors on other days should groups show interest. Boy Scouts, Sunday school classes, or even seniors from area living facilities are just some of the groups who might have an interest in the work that’s being done.
The club is also hosting a train show Dec. 8 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the cafeteria of Atlantic Christian. There will be vendors and other displays as well as tours of the Shoreline model next door.
But club members say there’s no need to wait that long. And if you haven’t been by in a while, plenty has and continues to change. When members have a new idea for scenery, they go ahead and change it. The English countryside is a new addition and not yet complete. Like most of the pieces of scenery in the layout, it’s almost completely handmade and features cobblestone and a flock of sheep over a traditional rolling English landscape.
It’s all happening inside a nondescript green trailer adorned simply with a railroad crossing sign.
“It’s kind of a hidden, little secret,” Lincoln said of the building. “A lot of people don’t even know about it.”