Behind the Scenes at the TCA Museum - Special Days
By Roy Aydelotte 79-14175
From time to time the National Toy Train Museum (NTTM) receives
special requests. Most are passed to the Education and Museum
(E&M) Committee for action. On one occasion in early February
2006 we were able to help.
In late January, I was having one of many discussions with John
Luppino, our Operations Manager for TCA. As we were winding up
the discussion I asked if there was anything else that he had. "Yes," he
replied, he had just received a call from the “Make A Wish Foundation”.
They were hoping we could open the Museum to allow for a young
boy's wish to come true. "You bet!" was the enthusiastic
reply. We are normally closed January through March so we can
work on a lot of our behind the scenes activities.
The “Make A Wish Foundation” works to grant the wishes of children
with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human
experience with hope, strength and joy. They can be found on
line at: http://www.wish.org/ The
initial wish of this young man was to go to Disney World with
his family. Unfortunately that was not feasible and his second
wish was to spend a day visiting trains in Strasburg, PA. This
included stops at the Strasburg Railroad, the National Toy Train
Museum, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
As luck would have it, the chosen day was a work weekend with
little planned as most of the volunteers were anticipating spending
time with family and watching the Super Bowl. In addition, one
of our Committee members knew the family and volunteered to come
in and help out. Of course we had to do more than just open the
On the appointed day, we arrived early to clean up our winter
mess so we would be presentable. Not everything was working due
to winter projects and some rebuilding, but we had most of it
ready. The NTTM was second on the venue for the special kid and
his family. They arrived in the “Make A Wish” limousine (donated
by another organization) with the young man second through the
door. My introduction was to our special guest, Jack Harmon,
a five year old who was wide eyed with both apprehension and
During the next 90 minutes, we did our best to accommodate this
special young man, his three siblings and parents. He was all
over the Museum and must have hit every button at least twice.
His older brother and father were also interested in trains.
In talking with the mother and father, I learned that his young
son had been interested in trains for most of his life. It seems
Dad had an HO train that was all but destroyed during "playtime." And
the interest in trains continued unabated.
Peter Taraborelli, our youngest member and previously a kid's
club member, spent a lot of time with our Jack. During our preparation
time, we decided that if something was not working right, or
the interest arose, Peter was to remove any protective shields
and let the young man help fix things. More wide eyes at this
opportunity! We have an N gauge train on the G layout that now
has a fresh load of ballast in the gondolas and some help with
the HO layout too!
That's Peter showing Jack and his sister the Standard Gauge
Keith Arnold worked to make our young enthusiast an Honorary
Kid's Club member. As the family was getting ready to leave,
he was presented with the Kid's Club certificate and identification
card. He was more interested in the TCA Kid's Club Membership
Car than the certificate. Mom took the certificate as he clutched
the car. About this time, his shyness overtook his interest and
he hid behind his older sister. Despite attempts to the contrary,
he would not come forward to receive his other two gifts. An
engineer panda bear was accepted by his younger sister, and his
older brother accepted a Brio set that will go with his existing
With all the excitement over, the family departed for the next
stop and we now have a special new member in the Kids' Club!
Another successful "Special Day" behind the scenes
at the TCA National Toy Train Museum.
We are always interested in accepting new volunteers to this
hard working committee. As this article shows there are opportunities
for gratification that help make all the work worthwhile. If
these kinds of "behind the scenes" activities are of
interest to you, drop me a line ( NTTMCommittee@aol.com )
or give me a call at 410-923-0754. We are always looking for
TCA'ers with interest, talent, and/or the desire to learn to
help out at our TCA Museum.
"Epilogue: Jack Harmon passed away on March 14, 2006. He
visited the NTTM on February 4. The Make-A-Wish foundation
has recently asked if we would again host a child next month. Plans
are in place to provide the support requested."