By JENNIFER MEIER
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Historical Museum has become a train depot of sorts for the coming spring months.
From now until the end of May, model engines, cars, working train layouts, switches, signals and photographs are on display during museum hours and by appointment.
Once the call went out and by word of mouth, the museum’s shelves, display cases and tables filled up with variety of trains in all shapes and sizes — from Lionel to American Flyer and from the 1930s through to the present.
“All the collections and individual pieces come from local collectors — model train enthusiasts and even some folks who have lent us trains they’ve kept even after their children stopped playing with them,” said museum Director Richard Smith. “You wouldn’t believe it. Some of them come in their original boxes and look almost new.”
A sleek silver train called the Burlington-Zephyr from American Flyer Streamliners represents the oldest train in the exhibit. The train, manufactured in 1936, is on loan from Don Smucker.
Four large cases are devoted to the collections of Chuck Teall and his late brother-in-law Tom Sparr.
“There are three impressive New York Central engines from 1950s,” Smith said. “And a 15-car bicentennial train. I think you would buy a car a month leading up to the bicentennial, and then the final month you would get the engine and the caboose.”
Several working layouts created by Steve Payne, one on loan from Das Dutchman Essenhaus, fill two large tables.
“Another one is a replica of the Pumpkinvine Railroad made by Sam Miller especially for this exhibit,” Smith said. “The model shows a pre-1960s view of Middlebury with a stockyard, lumber company, train depot, Pioneer Manufacturing and Middlebury Grain.”
Photographs show the Middlebury depot as well as the trestle that once existed near the downtown area.
One of Smith’s favorites is a model of the Orient Express on loan from Shirley Hoover.
“It’s pretty neat,” Smith said. “The Hoovers actually took a trip on the train and later saw this model when they were visiting St. Louis. Look closely, you can even see the lamps on each of the tables in the dining car.”
The Middlebury Historical Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. There is no admission charge.