- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - For many people in southwestern Pennsylvania, coal is an integral part of life. It can dictate the types of jobs people have and even influence the culture of the area.

For the HObo Model Railroad Club, coal is king.

The club’s West Virginia Northern railroad prominently features the mineral throughout their newest display at the Connellsville Community Center located at 201 East Fairview Ave., Connellsville.

“Our railroad is in the coal country of West Virginia. We are going to haul a lot of coal. We (club members) all come from the coal fields of West Virginia,” explained Bill Beatty, president of the HObo Model Railroad Club. “We will have a lot of hopper cars. We will have very few general freight cars, like boxcars and oil tankers.”

The HObo Model Railroad Club was founded in 1953. The first train display was created in February of 1977 and was showcased at the former Laurel Mall. When the club moved to their current location at the community center, a new railroad was constructed in 1985 and was in existence until 2012 when the club began the construction of the current railroad.

“About 95 percent of the wood that is there (in the current display) was salvaged from the old wood upstairs,” said Beatty. “It started about two years ago when we started tearing down the old railroad.”

Beatty says that, while the display is up and running, there is still some work that needs to be done.

“We have to do the scenery now. We have a little bit of wiring to do, but the trains are operational,” he said.

The trains that run on the railroad will be switched out periodically allowing the members the opportunity to run their favorite trains.

“The club does have some rolling stock (of trains), but, for the most part, guys will have special stuff that they like to run,” said Beatty. “We will switch it out. I am a lover of steam. I have mostly steam engines. Then there are people who like the transition period stuff where you get the first generation diesels, and then you have the people that like your modern stuff. You may not see, say for instance, all steam or all diesel.”

The club is currently looking for new members who would be able to meet from about 7-10 p.m. Fridays on the first floor of the community center. This is also the time when people can come and visit the display.

“We are sort of hoping that those people who like trains come in and be reminded that trains were once a big part of the American culture. It is kind of like an, ‘OK, come and see what talents we have, but remember what the purpose of the trains were,’” said Beatty.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1GCY4Qr

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Information from: Herald-Standard, https://www.heraldstandard.com/

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