How miniature is our Valley

Anthracite Model Railroad Club’s custom layout a glimpse back in time

December 18. 2013 2:09AM
By Joe Sylvester From The Times Leader

Anthracite Model Railroad Club custom-built layout: Noon-7 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 5, 1057 Hanover Court, Hazle Township. Free, donations accepted. For more info, visit

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Hazleton, circa 1940s and 1950s, is there. So are the surrounding towns of Weatherly, Cross Creek, Ashmore, Jeddo, Drifton, and Eckley.

A few old coal breakers are there, too, though they may have been of an earlier era. A breaker in Eckley that was torn down in 1910, the Jeddo No. 7 breaker, as well one in Drifton, are part of the landscape. Then there are the trains, two running on each of three main lines.

The landscape is on two levels, which the observer cannot see at the same time. But it is worth a couple of stairs to get the complete picture created by members of the Anthracite Model Railroad Club.

It’s all open to visitors during the club’s open house every weekend through Jan. 5 in Hazle Township.

The custom-built layout depicting Lehigh Valley’s Hazleton Branch, which passed through the above-mentioned towns, is set up at 1057 Hanover Court, between 22nd and 23rd streets, and is open to visitors from noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 5. The display is free, but donations are accepted.

“It’s just one layout, maybe 21 feet by about 50 feet,” said Tony Matukonis, the club’s vice president. “There are two levels. You can’t see one from the other.”

There are steps to catch a view of the top level. A ramp makes it handicapped-accessible.

“We have downtown Hazleton, the village of Eckley, Jim Thorpe,” Matukonis noted.

The layout formerly was set up at a different location in Hazleton but moved about 12 years ago, he said.

“We had a layout downtown, but we lost our lease,” Matukonis continued. “This building, it took a year to do the building and fix the layout. We’re still working on it. We had a lot of stuff from the old layout; this is much bigger.”

30 club members are involved in the layout, though not all were involved in building it.

“But they pay their dues,” he said.

The model train display usually is open twice a year, in the spring and for Christmas, but there was no spring open house this year.

“We were having a spring open house, but we had a big project for a five-foot addition with a helix that connects the bottom to the top,” Matukonis said. “We don’t have scenes on it this year.”

He said a couple of members created the buildings on the layout.

“The guy that did the (train) station in Jim Thorpe, he was in his 80s when he did that,” Matukonis pointed out.

He said the builders tried to model the structures to depict 20 years on either side of the 1940s, for the most part.

“We did the (1910) breaker because we got plans for it from Eckley.”


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