FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 8, 2009
CONTACT: Robert Bomboy
RAILROAD PROGRAM FOR HANDICAPPED CHILDREN AND ADULTS OPENS MAY 11
BLOOMSBURG – The operators of the nationally recognized Saturday Trains free model-railroad program in Danville, Montour County, will open a similar, handicapped-accessible program for wheelchair-bound children and adults every Monday afternoon beginning May 11 in the Columbia Mall at the Buckhorn exit (Exit #232) of Interstate 80..
The program, called “Wheelchair Engineers,” encourages wheelchair-bound children and adults, including stroke victims and wounded war veterans, to operate
O-Gauge and American Flyer model railroad trains on a large, wheelchair-accessible layout. The free program will be open every Monday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the mall.
“Operating model railroad trains is a great joy for many children and adults,” says Bob Bomboy, who created the original program four years ago, “but it’s not typically something that people in wheelchairs get to do. Our program in Danville is not handicapped-accessible; it’s up two flights of stairs. The generosity of the Columbia Mall has allowed me and my volunteer associates to open this second program in a ground-floor location.”
“We’re happy to welcome a free program like Wheelchair Engineers that will let wheelchair-bound children and adults have fun operating trains and learning about model railroading at the Columbia Mall,” says Colette Mensch, the mall’s marketing manager.
Bomboy says the free Saturday program, which was recognized this month in the national magazine Classic Toy Trains, will continue. Working with him will be the lifelong American Flyer railroader Earl Wagner, model-train collector Dale Walker, and retired caseworker Dennis Hartzell, all of Danville. Also helping out is the Loose Ties model railroad club of central Pennsylvania.
Hundreds of children and their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have run the O-Gauge model trains on Saturdays at the Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Danville, tooting the whistles and building scenery and evergreen trees. The display there includes snow-covered mountains, trees, four tunnels, a ski slope, two villages and two frozen lakes with ice skaters.
The layout at the Columbia Mall will be built in the same way, from the ground up. Children and adults in wheelchairs will be able to cast and paint plaster mountains for the eight-by-ten-foot layout, wire the operating lights and accessories, screw down two 10-foot loops of railroad track, build mountains, make evergreen trees, and create scenery.
“It’s one thing to sit and watch,” Bomboy says, “but the new layout at the mall is designed so that wheelchairs fit under it easily. Many people in wheelchairs, at any age, can use their hands and arms perfectly. They can craft things that will turn an empty-board layout into something beautiful. And they can run the trains all they want.”
One need at the new mall layout is for a discarded artificial Christmas tree. “If anyone has a five-to-six-foot artificial tree they might donate to our program, we’d be glad to have it,” Bomboy says. “It will always be Christmas here.”