Democrat Photo by Dan Hust
PLANNING IT OUT: From the left, Bill Gayron, Wilmer Sipple and Tom ODonnell figure out some aspects of the proposed model railroad exhibit to be housed in the attic of the Roscoe O&W Railway Museum. Local artist Jack Yelle has also participated, as can be seen by the cloud artwork on the walls.
O&W Enthusiasts Planning
To Re-create Main Line
By Dan Hust
ROSCOE August 18, 2000 Bill Gayron first fell in love with railroads when he was seven years old.
Fancying himself an engineer in the glory days of steam-powered locomotives, Gayron spent endless hours playing with his model trains.
He still does, in fact.
I still have the original set my father gave me, said Gayron, now a middle-aged alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
But dozens of train sets have replaced that one, and now they chug through feet after feet of track ringed by trees, buildings, industries and bodies of water all inside a small two-room bungalow outside Gayrons Rockland home.
According to him, its where his wife (a model train widow) kicked him out to, since his obsession with model railroading had begun to take over living spaces in the house. Now, he even has a tape that plays the sounds of moving locomotives and an outdoor speaker that reproduces the familiar hoot of a train whistle, giving this roadside hamlet a taste of local history.
Although no railroad ever ran through Rockland, its better known sister town one mile to the south Roscoe was a key stopping point on the New York, Ontario and Western (O&W) Railways main line.
A few years after the railroad closed in 1957, the state built a new four-lane highway called Route 17 on top of the O&Ws bed. Now, all thats left in Roscoe is a section of track upon which sits a well maintained caboose.
Across the street, however, is the Roscoe O&W Railway Museum, and it will soon become the home of Gayrons newest project.
In association with the museum and its director, Wilmer Sipple, Gayron and several others have embarked upon an ambitious plan to convert the museums 35x55 attic into a large reproduction of an 87-mile portion of the O&Ws most rugged section.
The painted backdrop of clouds is already up, and scads of wooden benches, tables, and screen wire are scattered in various piles throughout the room. The project now awaits human hands to create the mountains, rivers, towns, curves and trestles which defined the O&W between the cities of Middletown in Orange County and Norwich in Chenango County. (The line actually ran from Weehawken, NJ to Oswego, NY, but organizers are concentrating solely on the aforementioned section.)
Towards that end, seven people showed up on a recent Monday night at the museum to discuss the future of what is hoped to be a major public attraction at the Roscoe museum.
Well probably have to scratch-build some of it, said Gayron to fellow enthusiasts, in what was the least technical term used that evening. I myself love the electrical work. Ive already bought some elevator cable from Community General Hospital in Harris which is ideal for model railroading.
By the time the hour-long meeting had ended, the group had determined that approximately 330 feet of HO-gauge track would have to be laid around the four walls of the room, utilizing maps and blueprints showing the setup of the O&W railway and its stations, roundhouses, turntables and related buildings.
Not every feature will be reproduced, however. Gayron said that selective compression would be implemented, meaning that some parts of the line would not be to scale in order to fit the layout inside the museums attic.
Other spots, like Roscoe and Livingston Manor, would be oversized compared to larger hamlets like Sidney or Walton, so as to give people a detailed look at some local towns lives circa 1945, when diesel began replacing steam.
Its going to work out great, said Sipple, an ardent fan of the O&W, which ran through such Sullivan County hamlets as Bloomingburg, Wurtsboro, Woodridge, South Fallsburg, Monticello, Hurleyville and Liberty. Its taken us 16 years to get to building this, and Im excited!
Sipple added that prisoners from Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg had helped clean out the attic. Now, however, its up to volunteers like woodworker Tom ODonnell from Lakewood, Pa., artist Jack Yelle of Roscoe, and Monticello model RR enthusiast (and BMW biker) Mary Cohen to transform the attic into a model railroading heaven.
Each has their own model railroad setup at home (Cohens building one to run around her ceiling), but all stressed that one need not have such setups to become a member of the newly formed NY, O&W Railroad Club, Roscoe Division.
If a person likes trains, they already have half of it licked, said Gayron. If they have the interest, they can do it. And once you get into the attic and put that first piece of track down, theres no stopping.
More volunteers are needed, and donations of money or items (including loaning photos or blueprints) would be gratefully accepted, said organizers. Volunteers must be a minimum of 13 years old (accompanied by a parent if under 18), and meetings will be held every Monday at 7:30 p.m., including this coming Monday.
For more information, call Bill Gayron at (607) 498-5742 or Wilmer Sipple at (607) 498-4346.