ELKINS - Davis & Elkins College student Justin Guy divided his time this summer between conducting research and climbing a ladder to complete a practicum project that spotlights Randolph County’s heritage and adds another element to local tourism. Now, an overhead large-scale model railroad makes its rounds high above the service area at the historic Delmonte Market in downtown Elkins.
A former resident of Franklin, W.Va., Guy begins his junior year at Davis & Elkins this fall majoring in adventure recreation. His practicum experience for the summer, however, was conducted for his minor: railway heritage tourism.
Guy’s passion for trains was initiated by his grandfather who worked as a brakeman for Penn Central Railroad and he hopes the display will provide enjoyment for all who visit the Delmonte.
“I thought it would be a neat experience and it gives back to the community,” Guy says of the project. “This is something both kids and adults will enjoy.”
Guy, along with his professor, James Porterfield, director of the Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College, recently completed the installation. Both agree the project involved much more than securing wire fixtures and making sure the train could travel its path on a level track. As part of his work for the railway heritage tourism practicum, Guy researched various periodicals to acquire information on overhead G-scale model railroads, and interviewed other business owners who have similar displays, all in an effort to determine how best to proceed.
“Justin had to design a technique for suspending the track from a ceiling composed of exposed joists,” says Porterfield. “Other challenges he faced included preventing the train from falling to the floor if it comes off the track, and enabling an easy way to start and stop the train that is out of reach to curious customers.”
Porterfield notes that help also came from various members of the National Model Railroaders Association, headquartered near Chattanooga, Tenn., which is committed to expanding awareness of model railroading as a hobby.
The equipment used was donated to the West Virginia Railroad Museum by a companion of the late Benjamin Franklin Brighton of Clarksburg, W.Va.
Ironically, a working model train was one of the first things Delmonte Market owner Tammy Dolly hoped to have in her store. The project had been planned for more than a year by Porterfield and his brother, the late Bob Porterfield. Installation work began in May.
“It’s definitely been a labor of love,” Dolly says of Guy and Porterfield’s work. “They are passionate about trains and I was happy to facilitate an area.”
In decades past, Dolly’s shop was the site of a hotel and restaurant frequented by railroad workers and people who traveled by rail, including salesmen who would bring their wares to show local merchants. The model train exemplifies this piece of Elkins history, Dolly says, and serves as another attraction for locals and heritage tourism visitors.
“The more places we can get our tourists to go and the more we have for them do, the more they will have to tell people about when they go home,” Dolly says. “This train is one of those things.”
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.