All aboard: Volunteers work to get the bandwagon back on track at NC Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures – Salisbury Post
SPENCER – At the back of the NC Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures, past intricate dollhouses and puppets, a five-track miniature train crosses snow-capped mountains and bridges as it winds through old western towns and Christmas villages.
The train was donated to the museum, located at 104 Fourth Street, when it opened in 2012. To fit the large exhibit into the building, the museum’s front windows were removed and the set was transported to the interior piece by piece with the help of a small Bobcat front loader.
The central part of the ensemble is cut into a spacious standing area, which gives spectators a 360-degree view of the trains and the journeys they make around the tracks.
“Kids, oh my god, they love trains,” said Beth Nance, founder of the museum. “They can’t overcome all the moving parts and parts, the stunt. They are absolutely in love. Their eyes light up. They scream with pleasure. They think it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen.
For over a year, these joyful cries have been non-existent. When the museum temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the trains were pulled from their tracks and packed.
With the museum now open to the public again, Nance needed someone with the expertise to operate the trains. She found the perfect volunteers in Ed Klebaur and Allan Jung, who were recruited for the role by Kathy Gregg, volunteer and member of the museum’s board.
The train, Nance said, is complex to maintain.
“If it’s a doll, Kathy and I can wash the clothes or fix the hair,” Nance said. “But if it’s an oar, it takes a bit more finesse and knowledge.”
The task was welcomed by Klebaur and Jung, who both grew up playing with trains when miniature tracks were almost ubiquitous in American homes in the 1950s and 1960s.
“My dad got me involved when I was four and he loved trains when I was young,” said Klebaur, who was born and raised in New Jersey. “I grew up with trains in what we call the post-war train era.”
Like Klebaur, Jung’s first train was also purchased for him by his father, who came up with the idea from their neighbor upstairs.
“My parents rented the floor to a guy who picked up trains,” Jung said. “He had an entire room dedicated to trains. So my dad decided it would be a good idea for him to build one for me.
When Klebaur and Jung grew up, their work, family and adult responsibilities took precedence over their passion for trains. As Klebaur kept track of his childhood in his attic, Jung said his train was sold at a flea market.
In their retirement, the two men resumed the nostalgic hobby.
Jung, who lives in Lexington, was recruited two years ago to renovate and revitalize the train at the NC Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures. He is now assisted in this endeavor by Klebaur, who moved to Salisbury from New Bern less than a year ago.
The two men, both with electrical engineering backgrounds, only started working on the train in the past two weeks. Now they are taking inventory of the trains and the accessories there. Jung rummaged under the tables containing the rails, where much of the equipment was stored.
The train set is made up almost entirely of cars manufactured by Lionel Trains – the “gold standard” in model trains. Founded by Joshua Lionel Cowen in New York City in 1900, the historic company was acquired by General Mills in 1969 and is now headquartered in Concord. Klebaur and Jung both had sets from Lionel growing up.
One of the few model train-related objects that Klebaur kept when he moved to Salisbury in October was a book specifically devoted to Lionel trains. This manuscript, he said, will be useful during this project.
As they examine the wagons and the tracks they sit on, Klebaur and Jung do some detective work to determine why some trains are not performing properly. From there, they’ll fix what they can and clean the tracks to make sure the trains connect to electricity and run properly.
“It’s definitely a challenge to get it started,” Jung said.
But that’s the challenge of the project, said Jung, whom he loves.
With several hundred feet of track and dozens of cars to inspect, the project will likely take a long time for the two volunteers.
“It’s going to take a bunch of weird hours,” Klebaur said.
With only one paid employee, the NC Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures relies heavily on volunteers. There are currently less than a dozen people donating their time to the museum. These volunteers do everything from dusting to the smallest detail of each doll to taking guests on tours and explaining the historical significance of the museum’s collections.
“It’s a community museum. So without volunteers, we can’t function as efficiently as we want, ”Nance said.
The only thing anyone needs to volunteer is a passion for history, Nance said. The museum plans to put in place a volunteer coordinator in the coming months and will host a volunteer seminar in the fall.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” said Gregg. “We love volunteers who enjoy this kind of hobby.
More information about the NC Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures is available online at NCMDTM.com, by sending an email [email protected] or by calling 704-762-9359. The museum is open from Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.