Bellville resident Bill Smith has been collecting model trains for the better part of a quarter of a century, and the fruits his hobby will be on display for guests of the Historical Society beginning Sept. 16.
“I have had an interest in trains and railroads all my life,” said Smith. “I began collecting them 25 years ago and probably have close 45 sets by now.”
The idea to put his collection on display is part of Bellville Historical Society curator Ruthie Shinabarker’s plans to shake-up the museum’s display during the Bellville Street Fair.
“We are putting out some different material in the display cases,” said Shinabarker. “I’ve been changing around the displays so people can see some of different stuff. But it’s really going to be great to get the trains here.”
Smith cites his grandfather, who worked as a conductor on a railway car, as the inspiration for is train fascination.
“He was a conductor on an old-style of train that’s not used anymore,” he said. “He was one of the guys who used to waive to people as the train was pulling away.”
Smith focuses his collection on the three toy train builders: Lionel, American Flyer and Marx to highlight the train’s progression throughout the 20th century.
“People don’t see trains like the ones I have (on display) anymore,” said Smith. “Builders got rid of the caboose as technology advanced. I set up it up so people can understand where trains came from.”
With the models Smith has set up, the collector aims to give viewers an authentic glimpse into the past.
“I tried to cover everything in my display,” said Smith. “It shows what trains used to be like. I even added a little potbelly stove to give everyone a chance to see what trains were all about.”
The model is set to run for one year following the Bellville Street Fair.
In addition to Smith’s trains the historical society will feature the work of Bellville native Fern Bisel Peat who spent her artistic career illustrating children’s books of the first half of the 20th century.
As part of their military room, the museum will also feature area service memorabilia including several newly discovered written pieces that document some of the music played during World War I.
The museum is located at 159 Bell Street and will be open beginning Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. each day of the fair.