The volunteers at the Bricktown Museum in Mount Union are preparing for a year of milestones as some of their major projects are scheduled to come to fruition in 2021.
The museum, at 300 W. Small St. adjacent to the railroad tracks, is the domain of the Bricktown Model Railroaders Association which established the museum as a permanent home for an expansive model railroad layout and for various relics that speak to Mount Union’s industrial past.
The new year greeted the group with one minor set back. On Jan. 7, BMRA members discovered graffiti on the north side of the building facing the railroad tracks. The graffiti, including the usual vulgarities, was scrawled across two doors and the exterior wall.
“One of our missions is to instill a sense of pride in our community and this person or persons obviously has no pride in our community,” spokesman George Sarra said. “The irony is, they’re just the sort of person we’re trying to reach.”
Sarra said the vandalism was reported to police. The museum crew is stepping up security measures and asking immediate neighbors to watch out for suspicious activity.
This moment of frustration is also turning out to be one of affirmation, Sarra said.
“We appreciate and are humbled by all the show of support from the community,” he said, adding museum fans are expressing their support in a variety of ways.
For instance, during a Daily News interview Jan. 10, Kistler residents Mike and Melissa Holder dropped in to donate an eight-camera security system and DVR to help the museum thwart any future vandalism.
In the meantime, Sarra and fellow member Bob Fogelsanger say if the culprit or culprits step forward, the museum crew will not only put them on clean-up detail; they’ll teach them about the museum’s mission and goals, with a substantial dose of Bricktown history.
“We’d like to take them under our wings before they end up on the wrong side of the tracks, Fogelsonger said.
Graffiti aside, Sarra said the rest of BMRA have their sights set on the future — one that honors the past with enthusiasm and attention to detail.
After three years of renovation work on the former warehouse the museum calls home, Sarra says the group is only a few steps away from meeting code and thus opening the museum to the public in earnest.
At present, the public is welcome to stop by during twice-weekly work sessions and seasonal open houses to view the work in progress. Sarra said once all code requirements are met, the group can officially open the museum and establish regular hours.
The group’s cumulative talents include carpentry, electrical, engineering and, of course, creation of models and laying down miniature tracks. Once the museum opens, Sarra said he expects the volunteer base to expand.
“So far, the kind of work we’re doing requires the carpenters and the electrical engineers,” Sarra said. “Once we’re open, we’ll need people to help staff the museum and that’s where I think we’ll see more volunteers.”
Sarra noted the occasion of an official opening won’t be left to pass under the radar. The group is hoping to celebrate its grand opening in style, perhaps in conjunction with the return of its Music Along the Rails festival. Plans, he said, are still being tossed around for how the celebration will ultimately look.
Also on the BMRA’s plate this year is the launch of the construction phase for its model of the historic East Broad Top Railroad, which will include all the communities along the EBT line with Mount Union taking center stage.
“This is a major display for the museum,” Sarra said, noting the HO/HOn3-scale model it will take up roughly one half of the museum’s main floor.
At present, members are reviewing a pair of proposed plans of the layout, weighing the advantages and challenges of each design.
“Somewhere between the two is where our layout is going to be,” Sarra said, adding the group aims to reuse as much of its previous layout as possible.
“We’re increasing the size of Mount Union on this layout, whichever plan we go with,” he said. “It’s going to be highly detailed and hopefully, when people look at it, they’ll know right away it’s Mount Union.”
To keep the club stocked with supplies for their model railroad project, renovations to the building and other endeavors, the BMRA is of course planning fundraisers for the year. So far, they have two haunts scheduled, the first of which is coming up next month.
The third annual My Bloody Valentine haunted house experience is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12-13, in the museum basement.
“Instead of dinner and a movie, we’re saying, why not dinner and a haunt?” Fogelsonger said.
Fogelsonger is the fright master behind the Valentine event and the annual Horrorween haunt which features live actors and runs every Friday and Saturday in October. He’s been creating haunted house events for years and when he first laid eyes on the museum’s basement space, he knew how best to put it to use.
“Nothing makes you feel more alive than being scared half to death,” he said.
Fans of the haunts agree, setting new attendance records every year. Fogelsonger noted the October haunt is a major fundraiser for the museum and is now drawing people from across the state and out of state.
Fogelsonger and Sarra said the haunts and the museum are mutually beneficial, pointing out they’ve had people turn up for the haunt who are intrigued by the museum and vice versa.
Sarra said while there’s plant on the group’s plate for 2021, there are plenty of ideas to carry the museum well into the future, including a database of employees who worked in Bricktown’s three brickyards and a searchable database for the museum’s entire collection.
For more information about the Bricktown Museum and the Bricktown Model Railroad Association, or to keep up with museum events, visit both on Facebook.
Rebecca can be reached at email@example.com.