"Forty-three cars."

A visitor to the Carbon Model Railroad Society open house stood and counted the cars on one of the many trains that run through scenic areas and villages, past industries and farms.

President Garry Mack said the Society is not a train club but a modeling club with a special interest in building an interesting display. Members who do not have a platform to run their trains at home can bring them to the clubhouse and run them there.

The Society was formed in 1985. At one time it helped the Pocono Museum Unlimited in Lehighton but the decision was made to go on its own. In addition to the large HO scale layout on the first floor of its clubhouse at 529 Ore St., Bowmanstown, the upper level has modular units that are taken to malls and train meets.

In 2002 they took out a mortgage and bought the Chapel of the Holy Cross which needed renovation. A second floor was added. Interior walls with insulation were added. Lighting and a bathroom were needed. Single pane windows were replaced, and the heating system upgraded.

The first time they looked at the church it was unanimous that it was not big enough but on second look it was decided the room was high enough to put in a second floor, doubling the space.

Mack said they saw an old picture of the church and it looked nice with trees all around. The houses on both sides were not built yet.

After the renovations the fun began as the club began work on its platform. It became an HO club because the most modeling supplies are available to match that gauge.

On a Thursday worknight there are usually a dozen people working. Each one has a pet project. The club itself does not own much because people bring their equipment from home. Sheldon Endy made two boards, one for one of his circus trains and one for a farm. He did the work at home but, with measurements carefully taken, the mini-platform just slipped into the space allotted.

Many donations of train equipment have been received. Whatever fits the exhibit is used with the remainder going to a sale table on the second floor. An N-scale platform had only to be made smaller before it became one of the meet models. It even has a half-burned house with the fire trucks still outside.

Mack said the meets are a good place to exchange information and tell stories. Anyone with a problem with a platform design or models can find that information at a meet or stop in at any of the open houses. Society members are always ready to talk "train."

The Society has an HO scale platform that is also taken to meets. Both it and the N-scale are running on the second floor during the open houses. One of the HO towns is named Deatsville. Mack said there are several things using the Deats name on the main platform. They are named after Willard Deats, a founding member of the club. There is also a Chris Café named for Willard's wife.

A raffle is being held for a Rail King starter set of trains, and there are tee-shirts for sale. "Jan (Mack's wife) and I took our garden railroad to Lehighton's Lion and Lioness breakfast with Santa Claus," said Mack. It is an annual trip. The garden gauge trains are big enough to run outside.

A man brought his puppy on Saturday and it watched the trains with the fascination often found with kids. One 3-year-old comes as often as he can tease his mother and grandmother into bringing him. He has been carried out in tears. His favorite is Thomas the Tank Engine. His third birthday party was spent at Strasburg with Thomas, and he has ridden real trains.

The Carbon Railroaders not only go to meets sponsored by other clubs but hold their own: a spring train meet in March at the Palmerton Area High School gym and a fall meet at Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall in November.

For the Macks it's a family affair. Jan said their daughter, Terri Polischak, made the farm market with pieces so tiny she had to work with a magnifying class.

Visitors are given a list of "scavenger" things to find. Some are easy to see but others are small such as a skunk that stopped to rest in the middle of the highway. The dinosaur is in clear view. There are 25 things to test your eyesight.

There is a caboose that was turned into a barroom and three people are staggering as they leave.

One corner still needs to be finished but when it is there will be things to be changed or improved to keep the modelers busy.

Limited edition HO train cars are made and sold. They provide the best financial support for the club. The cars are finished with the logos of local towns and businesses.

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Open house hours are Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11 and Jan. 7 and 8. Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Open houses are also held Thursday evenings Dec. 15, 29 and Jan. 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. There is no admission charge but donations are appreciated. For information call (610) 826-6636 or during open house hours call (610) 597-2925. The Society also has a Facebook page, and a website: www.cmrs.info.