DATE: May 12, 2009
SUBJECT: New Model-Train Layout for Wheelchair Engineers©
Free Railroad Program for dis-ABLED Children and Adults at Columbia Mall
BLOOMSBURG, PA –A free model railroad program for disABLED children and adults has opened in the Columbia Mall at Exit 232 on Interstate 80 near Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
The program, called “Wheelchair Engineers,” encourages wheelchair-bound children and adults, including stroke victims and wounded war veterans, to operate model railroad trains on a large, wheelchair-accessible layout.
“Operating model railroad trains is a great joy for many children and adults,” says the new layout’s designer, Robert Bomboy, “but it’s not typically something that people in wheelchairs get to do. Since 2005 I’ve been running a free model-railroading program called Saturday Trains, but it’s not wheelchair-accessible. The generosity of the Columbia Mall has allowed me and my volunteer associates to open this second program in a ground-floor location. I believe this is the first hands-on railroad layout ever created for wheelchair-bound children.”
Bob says his original Saturday Trains program, which was recognized in May 2009 in the national magazine Classic Toy Trains, will continue.
“Over the years we’ve had hundreds of children, their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles run our five O-Gauge trains every Saturday morning, tooting the whistles and building scenery and evergreen trees,” Bob says. “The display there includes snow-covered mountains, trees, four tunnels, a ski slope, two villages and two frozen lakes with ice skaters – and children have built it all.”
The new layout, which began on May 11 and will continue every Monday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Columbia Mall, will be built in the same way, from the ground up. Children and adults in wheelchairs have been casting and painting plaster mountains for the eight-by-ten-foot layout, wiring the operating lights and accessories, screwing down two 10-foot loops of railroad track, making evergreen trees, and creating scenery.
“It’s one thing to sit and watch,” Bob believes, “but this new layout is designed so that wheelchairs fit under it easily. Many people in wheelchairs, at any age, can use their hands and arms perfectly. They can craft things that will turn an empty-board layout into something beautiful. And they can run the trains all they want.”