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Railroad Club Is On The Right Track

It’s not uncommon for adults to develop a yearning to relive the simple pleasures and pastimes of their youth. While some take up spending a few bucks here and there to recapture some base nostalgia in the form of a shirt or action figure, there’s a group of gentlemen in Hicksville who take it to a whole different level.

Since 1947, the West Island Model Railroad Club has given train enthusiasts a place to congregate and indulge their hobby on a grand scale. Hicksville resident and club president, Vic Grappone, says he’s personally been interested in model trains since...well, forever.

“I’m 57 years old now, and I’ve been into trains for probably 56 of them,” he said. “It started with a Lionel train set that my father bought me, and that got me hooked very early, which is probably the case with a lot of the guys here.”

“We ask ourselves that question a lot, why do we like trains?” Grappone continued. “It’s just kind of a gut feeling. I like it because I’m an engineer by trade, so I like things that are logical but powerful. But there’s also a certain sense of history. The history of the railroads, how they were built.”

The club, boasting 53 members, rents a 5,600 square foot space at 485 S. Broadway where they are currently constructing their masterpiece. The club’s model railroad, named the Allegheny & Western, recreates actual rail lines ranging from Harrisburg, PA in the west, to New York harbor in the east, and as far north as the coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. The club members have constructed a fully-computerized, double track mainline over 650 feet in length (almost eleven scale miles) spread throughout the vast space available to them.

The timeline depicted is the 1950’s, an era where trains were changing over from steam to diesel, enabling the club to utilize both in their display, along with various scenic depictions of the real-life areas that the railroad line is based on. Houses, bridges, forests, buildings, factories, rivers, cars, train yards, people—the level of detail is astounding, and made to be as accurate as possible based on extensive research, Grappone said, although occasionally some liberties are taken in the name of aesthetics and workability.

“Realistically, it’ll probably be at least 10 years before we finish the stuff that we really want to finish,” he said. “But the point of this hobby isn’t to finish anything. The fun is in the process. We’re basically overgrown kids here reliving our childhood.”

The club started holding annual open houses in 2010 for the public to come and view the progress that they have made on their railroad project each year. The event, which is held in November and December, has become the club’s major fundraiser, and Grappone said that donations are appreciated.

Suggested donations are $5 per person, with a $12 maximum for a family.

 Each member of the West Island Model Railroad Club brings unique skills in the creation of the epic Allegheny & Western railroad. Together, their individual efforts successfully contribute very much to the whole, according to Grappone.

 East Meadow resident Ken DeNigris, the club’s Superintendent, has been a longtime member of the club.

“My responsibilities are to maintain the railroad in operating condition, repair any problems, and supervise any new installation or building,” he said. “I really love the building. I enjoy putting things together. I like the woodworking, the track work, and the wiring.”

 Rich Valente of Sea Cliff has been a member of the club for 23 years, and possesses a variety of skills that the other members have come to rely upon a great deal.

 “I put together all of the signal bridges, and I do a lot of the lighting in the buildings and the automobiles, and the installation of the decoders in the engines of the trains,” he said. “As most of us are ‘empty nesters’ or retirees, this (club) gives us a purpose, which is nice. It gives us some camaraderie and a place to socialize.”

 Ron Weismann makes the weekly trek all the way from his two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, where previously the only space available to him to work on trains was the kitchen table. Upon joining the Railroad Club, he found the sheer space now available for his hobby to be mind-boggling.

 “This is like heaven to me,” he said. “I do a lot of the drops, which are the electrical connections to the tracks that enable the trains to run, in addition to working on some of the scenery. We’re fortunate that, as a club, we have a lot of guys, and each guy brings something important to the table.”

 The 2013 West Island Model Railroad Annual Open House will run for three weekends: Nov. 29, 30, Dec. 1, Dec. 6, 7, 8; and Dec. 13, 14, 15. The club is located at 485 South Broadway, Unit 22A, in Hicksville, in the Broadway Business Center just off Route 107.  

 “We get a lot of people who enjoy coming down each year and checking out the new towns, buildings, and other touches that we have added,” Grappone said. “It’s always a well-attended event. It’s great for families, and we’ve even made model train converts out of some of the people who come.”

To find out more about the West Island Model Railroad Club, visit their website at www.wimrrc.com or call 516-433-6600.

News

Levittown Hall in Hicksville comes alive every Thursday night with music, dance, fun and laughter as students are swept away into the world of Latin dance.

Under the instruction of professional teacher Mark James, dance hopefuls learn a trio of Latin dance, including salsa, meringue and what James describes as the biggest craze in Latin dancing today, bachata.

 book shops in Hicksville and around the country will hand out free comics on Oct. 25, to celebrate the second biggest free comic book event of the year—Halloween ComicFest. On Saturday, anyone who goes into a participating comic shop can choose from 19 free comics and participate in fun activities comic shops host for their customers to enjoy, while discovering new types of comics and the treasures found in store.

In Hicksville, both Game Master Games (954 S. Broadway) and Amok Time (108C New South Road) will be taking part in the Halloween ComicFest festivities. Game Master Games just recently started carrying comic books and this will be the store’s first comic book-related event. Coincidently, the event runs in the middle of an in-store gaming convention, and store owner Dave VanderWerf is looking forward to the increased exposure for the store.


Sports

The Hicksville girls volleyball team improved to 7-1 by knocking off Oceanside in three consecutive sets by scores of 25-13, 25-19 and 25-14.

Emily Markakis played terrificly, using a powerful serve to record three aces, seven kills and added nine digs. Nikki Chase added six kills and eight digs. Additionally, Raeann Dong was versatile—recording three aces, seven kills and nine digs.

The Girls Varsity soccer team, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wore pink uniforms and pink socks in their game on Oct. 8 against MacArthur whom they defeated 1-0. The girls and boys soccer programs at Hicksville High School are selling pink ribbon car magnets with a soccer ball and HHS on it with the words “Kick Cancer” on the ribbon. All the money raised will go to the Sarah Grace Foundation, which is a local foundation trying to beat pediatric cancer. The players plan to raise $1,000 for this organization

— From Hicksville High School


Calendar

Board of Education Meeting

October 22

Oktoberfest

October 25-26

Pancake Breakfast

October 26



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com