By Sena Pottackal
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – A display of model trains from the Civil War era visited the Blackwood campus of Camden County College on Oct. 26.
The Camden County College Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility has organized a series of lectures and events to educate the community free of charge about the Civil War. As part of this series, the Strasburg Railroad Club hosted a display of model trains from 1861 to 1866. The display took place from 2 to 7 p.m. Oct. 26 in the atrium of the Connector Building at the Blackwood campus. Train sets of different scale were displayed to represent the United States Military Railroads of the Civil War. The exhibit also included photographs, videos and a Power Point presentation that depicted what was a rather new and significant invention during the 1800s.
The train layouts were distinctly different from one another. Two were HO scale. The other was a Garden Scale. One of the HO layouts was oval shaped and depicted the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Line that ran from Glassboro, N.J. to the Transit Center in Cape May. This layout was assembled by Rich Drobil, an employee of the college who has been a member of the Strasburg Railroad Club for almost 20 years.
“The PRSL ran from the 1940s through the 1970s and stopped running after the government formed the Consolidated Railroad in order to try to bail out the railroads,” Drobil said.
The other was a 6-foot-by-8-foot oval that represented the United States Military Railroads during the Civil War. A battle scene between the Union forces and the Confederate troops was staged inside the oval with army miniatures. The Garden Scale layout was set up on the floor. It was larger than the other two. These trains had sound effects that were activated when the train ran over a magnet, setting off either the sound of a bell or a whistle.
In addition to the model trains, the exhibit also featured two TV/VCR carts that each showed a movie. The first showed a PBS movie special on the role that the railroads played in the Union’s victory over the Confederacy. The other instructed the viewer about how to operate a steam locomotive.
“The whole video is about an hour on how they start a train, run a train, stop it and clean the boilers,” Drobil said.
The final component of the exhibit was the Power Point display that depicted images of actual trains from the Civil War and other relevant information.
“The exhibit even attracted the attention of The Philadelphia Inquirer,” Drobil said.