Glenn Gunter Northern Delaware Model Railroad ClubJun 29, 2023 10:45AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Since its beginning in 1994, the Northern Delaware Model Railroad Club has brought together a spirit of invention, collaboration and camaraderie that continues to embellish the memories of childhood, and entire villages out of plastic, wood and imagination. Recently, Greenville & Hockessin Life met with Club President Glenn Gunter at the Club’s studio in a business park on Yorklyn Road to talk about the magic of model railroading, the long-time dedication of the Club’s members, and a very special dinner party that Gunter would love to host.
Greenville & Hockessin Life: How many members do you currently have in the Club?
We have about two dozen regular members, who range in age from 16 to those in their early 80s.
Talk about the mutual connections that helped to form the Northern Delaware Model Railroad Club 29 years ago.
Gunter: I think it stems from a love of trains and railroads. We’re the kind of people who when we are forced to sit in our cars waiting for a train to go by at a railroad crossing, we’re not very upset. Like so many of our fellow model railroad enthusiasts, most of us first received train sets as a Christmas gift, or were introduced to the hobby by our fathers.
In many ways, the early love that I cultivated for trains never left me and it became a career, as I spent several years working for the CSX Railroad – first as a signal operator, then in the mechanical department and finished my career there. CSX serves the East Coast from New England to Florida and west to Chicago, and also includes New Orleans.
Describe how you received your first model railroad set.
I was born in August of 1953, and my mother won a train set that December at a drug store in Newport, and we had that train set for as long as I can remember. I was also the beneficiary of my father, who began collecting trains in the 1940s. I came from a family who worked for the railroad. My grandfather worked as a conductor, my aunt was a clerk, and I had two uncles who worked briefly for the railroad while they were in college.
Taking up nearly every available space in this studio is perhaps the Club’s greatest piece of imagination: The Northern Delaware Railroad. It begins at the Port of Wilmington and travels westward through Maryland and ends in Strasburg, Virginia. Describe how the route was originally designed.
The original idea was to make it a coal carrier railroad that would begin in the coal country of Virginia and then bring it up to Wilmington. Over the years, we’ve made significant upgrades in design and scenery, but the original concept has remained mostly the same.
The Northern Delaware Railroad may be one that is confined to the group’s creative design, but are there ever moments when you wish to disappear into that invented world of innovation and invention, when the railroad industry was first being developed?
Most of us grew up during the time when steam engines were still being used, and when I visit a railroad now and see the old steam engines – or when I see a steam train pull into a station in an old movie -- I think it would have been cool to have lived in a time when steam locomotion was just a normal part of life.
Every model railroad enthusiast is committed to several aspects of definition: Designer, historian, engineer, builder and artist. Which of these roles do you enjoy the most?
I think I enjoy designing scenery the most – making the rivers, the mountains, the hills and the trees.
Is there a large-scale project that the Club is currently working on at the moment? If so, would you care to share a little bit about it?
One of the larger projects we’ve completed has been the installation of signals a few years ago. Much like at a real railroad station, a dispatcher at the Club can actually align switches from a centralized computer.
Does the Club host open houses for the community to visit the studio?
We usually schedule them in November during Model Railroad Month. We also set up our trains at Auburn Heights for their Train Day, as well as at a large model railroad show at the Chase Center in Wilmington. Those who are interested can learn more by visiting our website.
There will likely be many local residents of Greenville, Hockessin and Yorklyn reading this article who may be interested in getting started with model railroading, either for themselves or with their children or grandchildren. What advice do you have for those who are taking their first steps?
Have a plan. You don’t want to go buying pieces and components that you don’t need right away. I would also advise that he or she chooses a particular era of railroading, which will help consolidate the pieces and models – steam or diesel, for instance. Many of the people we know through the Club began with a small layout and then they got hooked on a particular timeframe, a particular railroad and even a specific location – sometimes where they grew up.
How important is for a new model railroad enthusiast to have someone beside them, such as an experienced consultant?
It helps sometimes, but you can also find so much “How-To” information on YouTube.
What is your favorite spot in the Greenville and Hockessin area?
I have been volunteering at Auburn Heights for some time, and I have always enjoyed being there.
You host a dinner party and can invite anyone – famous or not, living or not? Who would you like to see around that table?
I would like to invite some of the old railroad tycoons. When you look at the men who built America, you think of people like Mellon and Carnegie, and I think it would be interesting to have them around the table.
What item can always be found in your refrigerator?
I seem to always have hot dogs in my refrigerator.
- Richard L. Gaw