December 6th, 2011 at 9:00 am
Did you know that the Brandywine River Museum’s train collection has had the same conductor for 35 years? It’s the responsibility of museum employee Steven Clarke to work year-round to prepare for the six-week display – repairing trains, maintaining the equipment and organizing teams of volunteers for the massive set-up effort.
“Most train displays are either old, wonderful and valuable trains displayed in cases or realistic working models of specific times and locations,” explains Clarke. “We are a combination of both.”
Frequently, Clarke has to play mechanic to rebuild and customize the trains in order to make these objects meant to by toys able to run “industrially” – pulling 150-car freight trains for nine hours straight, seven days a week for six weeks. Clarke compares the train display like prepping for a stage production and his audience is rarely disappointed.
“I don’t think children these days are used to playing with toy trains like they used to,” Clarke continues. “We used to play with toys you built yourself. Children today mostly play with virtual toys, I think, so it’s a novelty to see real things actually doing real things.
“When I was a kid, my Dad was a junior officer and money was tight. When we went somewhere, it was a big deal. That’s why I tell the volunteers that our job is to make the display nice for everyone – it doesn’t matter who you think they are. Everyone who comes, chooses to come here. They easily could have gone somewhere else and we need to be prepared to show them a great display. That tends to be the guiding principle of my showmanship.” Well this sums up our Brandywine Christmas series. Thanks for following along, we hope you all enjoyed reading!