- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) - As Judith Rubin walked along, thoughtfully peering into the glass cases filled with rag, rubber and plastic dolls, one particular plaything caught her eye.

It wasn’t a Raggedy Ann, Cabbage Patch Kid or Barbie. No, it was an auburn-haired Chrissy doll - made popular by the Ideal Toy Co. in the late 1960s and early 1970s for its adjustable-length hair - that made Rubin pause.

“This was one of my daughter’s first dolls,” Rubin said wistfully. “She’s 51 now.”

Rubin had stopped at Wheeling’s Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum for her husband, Norm, a train aficionado. They were from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, and were on their way to a friend’s wedding.

That kind of impromptu visit is a regular occurrence, said curator Jimmy Schulte.

“We get a lot of people that are just passing through,” he explained. “We’re a good halfway point along I-70 for people going to New York or Indiana.”

Since it opened to the public in 1998, the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum, located in the former Kruger Street Elementary School, has been helping adults relive their childhoods while allowing children to appreciate theirs.

“It’s a wonderful place, very cheerful, with lots of history,” said Jeanne Guyer, a Kruger Street employee.

The museum comprises tens of thousands of toys amassed over decades by Allan Raymond Miller and his father, Allan Robert Miller.

“They started with Lionel trains and then expanded into prewar and Marx-manufactured trains and classic toys,” Schulte said. “We have items here from the 1800s to today.”

The collection is divided into specifically themed rooms for easy navigation.

According to Schulte, the museum’s main floor, which features the doll, miniatures, transportation and game room, is devoted entirely to toys, while the upper floor has a slot car room, three train rooms - and then there’s K-Land, a moving amusement park constructed entirely out of K’NEX kits.

“It took about 7,800 man-hours to complete,” Schulte said.

There’s also the Ohio Valley room, which includes a model of the city of Wheeling along with other local memorabilia, and a temporary exhibit space that will soon feature collectibles of Johnny West for the 50th anniversary of the cowboy action figures. Even the lobby and the building’s entryway have things to look at or even touch.

“We do encourage playing,” Schulte assured.

Many of the items on display were manufactured by Louis Marx and Co., an iconic toy company for products like Rock’em Sock’em Robots and the Big Wheel.

“They owned up to 60 percent of the toy business until the 1980s,” Schulte said.

A Marx factory was located in nearby Glen Dale, and a Marx Toy Museum still operates in Moundsville.

The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum will host its 17th annual Marx Toy and Train Collectors National Show on June 19 and 20.

“We host the convention every year,” Schulte said. “There are usually about 70 to 80 vendors. It started with train collectors and has grown into collectors of all Marx-related items.”

Schulte says the museum’s appeal spans generations. “The kids enjoy it, and it allows the adults to feel like a kid again,” Schulte said. “It’s an opportunity to share and make memories.”

Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday until Memorial Day. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, $5 for students 3-17 years old and free for children under 3. For more information, visit www.toyandtrain.com.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, https://www.wvgazette.com

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