He’s been working on the (model) railroad…

By on July 3, 2018

Dave Gibson holds the HO-scale trolley that led to his volunteer efforts with the Manheim Historical Society’s model railroad. Gibson is one of a group of volunteers who are working to create a mini-version of Manheim Central’s Elden Rettew Stadium for the layout. Their work can be viewed during public open house events on Sundays over the summer. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

Manheim Historical Society summer open houses

Summer is in full swing at the Manheim Historical Society. The organization hosts open house activities at the Manheim railroad station complex, 210 S. Charlotte St., and the Keath and Fasig Houses, 30-32 E. High St., Sundays throughout the summer.

Open house at the railroad station is from 1 to 4 p.m., while the Fasig and Keath Houses are open from 2 to 4 p.m.

Built in 1881, and restored in the past 10 years, the railroad station features a transportation museum and artifacts and information about Manheim area industries. In addition to the displays inside the train station, the complex also showcases several of the organization’s other restoration efforts, including a 1917 Pennsylvania Railroad cabin car (caboose) and a 1926 Birney trolley. The cabin car is open for tours during the open house events, and weather permitting, visitors can take a short ride (about 300-feet) on the trolley along the tracks in front of the station.

A model train display with an HO-scale layout is housed in a former toolshed on the complex. Originally created by the Stiegel Valley Model Railroad Club, the layout depicts life in Manheim in the 1940s and 50s. As membership in the model railroad club dwindled, the layout was turned over to the historical society about five years ago.

“It’s one of the best kept secrets in Manheim,” said Dave Gibson, one of the volunteers who is involved in an effort to repair and revitalize the layout.

A view of the football stadium that’s being created at the Manheim historical Society’s restored railroad station complex.

Model railroad

Visitors at the summer open house events will see a familiar place starting to take shape at the model railroad. A mini-version of Elden Rettew Field, where many area residents spend Friday evenings in the fall watching Manheim Central’s Baron Football team play, is being constructed.

Gibson, a Fredericksburg, Lebanon County, resident, who came to Manheim to ride the trolley three years ago, said the stadium is being painstakingly recreated.

“I’ve been a model railroader since before I was three years old. I enjoyed the trolley ride that day, but I also took a peek at the model railroad,” Gibson explained. “I saw a HO-scale replica of a late-1800s Brill trolley car, but it needed some work. I told Ike (John Eichelberger, the historical society’s facilities manager) that I could fix it and that’s how I became involved.”

Gibson rebuilt the trolley, adding a missing catenary pole, and repainted it yellow to reflect the paint scheme of Conestoga Traction Company. He’s currently working on creating an HO-scale version of the society’s Birney trolley to run on the model layout.

After completing the Brill trolley, he and a group of volunteers also repaired the existing portions of the layout, cleaning track and repairing the turntable so that it now operates  —  although he said it should be taken apart and completely refurbished. To determine what work was required, he performed a visual track inspection using a small camera attached to a train. The videos are posted to YouTube and can be found by searching Stiegel Valley Model Railroad.

During that video inspection he found a battery-operated speaker that had been hidden.

“The battery pack was corroded; it’s been refurbished and now operates. It’s part of a system for a diesel horn,” he said pointing to a large red button. “Kids love to push the button, and the horn is pretty loud. We may be the only model railroad with a sound system by Bose.”


As for the stadium, it will fill what had previously been a blank space. While it’s a work in progress, visitors can view the scoreboard and the turf field. The scoreboard was crafted using a photograph taken by member Denny Enck. One of his photographs also depicts the stands at the stadium and eventually will be replaced with a handcrafted mini-version of the stands.

“The yard lines and sidelines for the field were a real challenge. After some thought I came up with the idea to create a stencil using (window) screen,” Gibson said. “The yard markers and center field logo are next.”

The mini-Rettew Field will also feature HO-scale football players thanks to the talent and patience of Bea Kreiner, the society’s curator. A retired Manheim Central art teacher, Kreiner painted 48 figures, each less than an inch high, to represent the Barons football team. She’s currently working on painting figures of that same size to represent the marching band.

“I hold each figure with my fingertips as I paint one side,” she said. “I wait for that side to dry and then I do the other side.”

Gibson anticipates the replica of the stadium, with its stands, players and marching band, will be completed later this year. A new track will circle the stadium with a replica of the Birney trolley running on it. Until then, he welcomes visitors to view the progress and enjoy the layout during the summer open house events.

The railroad station also houses the Stiegel Glassworks 1976 glass studio. SGW’s glass blowers demonstrate their craft when the glass studio is open. For information on hours visit stiegelglassworks.org or SGW’s Facebook page.

Fasig House

Fasig and Keath Houses

The Fasig House and Keath House are Colonial-era log homes. Visitors can view Colonial artifacts from the Manheim area at the Fasig House, the organization’s first preservation project, and get a feel for life in a log home at the Keath House.

Reported to be the oldest existing home in Manheim, Keath House is believed to date to the founding of the town by Henry William Stiegel in 1762. Named for Peter Keath, a blacksmith who purchased the property in 1887, it was moved from its original location on the southwest corner of North Main and Colebrook streets.

The society began a project to restore the interior and exterior of the log home three years ago. The first phase of the project included restoring the brick fireplace in the kitchen, which is periodically used for hearth cooking demonstrations, Manheim Historical Society member Tony Greiner said period-style shutters were placed on the Keath House in April. They were crafted by Restore ‘N More, the contractor partnering with the organization and its volunteers on the project. Greiner said the shutters are among the final steps of the project.

For more information about the Manheim Historical Society visit manheimpa.com or the organization’s Facebook page.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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