WEIRTON – Part of a model train collection built over a 30-year hobby in Newark, Ohio has a new home at a local museum.
Jeffrey Miller made his first visit to the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center on Thursday afternoon, bringing with him nearly 20 O-Gauge model railroad kits. What makes the donation unique are the Weirton Steel Corp logo cars. and Miller’s inspiration for collecting these special pieces.
Miller explained that his maternal grandfather, Burr McKnight, was an engineer at Weirton Steel and would show him around the rail yard during the summers of his youth when Miller visited Weirton.
“We would take a taxi with him” he said.
These experiences with trains inspired him to collect model trains as a hobby and over the years he has amassed more than 50 locomotives and 600 rolling stock.
He said much of his collection was purchased through Pat’s Trains in Wheeling, which he believes is the only place he can find Weirton Steel’s railway parts. The parts correspond exactly to the train types that would have been used by Weirton Steel, he said.
Miller has a different connection to the community. He is a cousin of Weirton’s current mayor, Harold “Dude” Miller, who first told him about the museum and encouraged him to donate the pieces.
“He showed me a picture once and I couldn’t believe it.” said the mayor.
As part of Thursday’s visit to the museum, Miller brought with him two locomotives, two cabooses and several other cars, including a crane car and a slag car, as well as a 31-inch by 51-inch oval track. He said he currently has other pieces on order and plans to potentially add to the museum’s collection each year.
His hope is to inspire others to get involved in the hobby and possibly see a club formed at the museum.
Paul Zuros, Treasurer of the Museum Board, said the museum had previously discussed purchasing a train set and will be exploring the possibility of putting the kits up for viewing at some point.
For the time being, the pieces are on display in a showcase on the ground floor of the museum.
“We really appreciate that” said Zuros, noting the familiarity with which many Weirton residents would have seen the real-life versions of the trains. “We’ve been considering one and it’s a welcome addition.”
The Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center is located at 3149 Main St.
(Howell can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT.)