Rails to History

Discovering a Tioga County treasure nestled in Knoxville

by Stacey Dondey – April 16, 2018

“Why don’t we do Knoxville?” was the innocent question that launched a ten-year-long retirement project. Alan and Diane Forsberg are the talented couple that built the impressive, HO-scale model train replica of Knoxville, PA in it’s hay day. Every winter they would tirelessly recreate the town’s buildings by hand while working from photographs and Alan’s memories.

This large set interprets the New York Central and W.A.G. lines in a working layout which is now on permanent exhibit. Knoxville was a bustling community of less than 700 residents and had every advantage being highly merchantile. Consumers could, “buy any kind of good, any kind of service,” said Alan.

“As the train went each day, so we went,” Alan recalls of growing up in the house behind the Knoxville train depot in the 1950’s. “How the horns would blow when somebody would get an extra base hit or a home run!” In the 1950’s the Knoxville Merchants baseball team would bring the entire community out to the field behind the school. “In Knoxville, when something happened the community was there,” Alan remembers fondly. It was a simpler time when everyone knew each other. “A good place to grow up. The folks were very gracious & very hard working.”

Knoxville in the mid-twentieth century was a model of American values, home to extended Forsberg family and an ideal town to memorialize in this way. Diane’s background in home economics was a huge asset to the project. She utilized plastrux, clap paper, tar paper and balsa wood to construct this miniature town. “Anything that was in our home was fair game for one of us to grab and see if it would work,” Diane explained. If you look closely you will find something new each time. It is hard to notice a turret that was once a toilet paper roll or Barbie packaging in the windows.

In the end it would take ten men, six days and a flat bed vault truck to move and reconstruct the 70 structure train table. Although Alan and Diane will not be attempting another project like this one, they are eager to guide other builders interested in creating model trains.

The Rails to History exhibit is now on display for the public at the Glover House next door to the Knoxville Public Library. It can be seen by calling or emailing to schedule an appointment or by visiting during the sesonal schedule. Groups and families are welcome!

Rails to History 2018 is open the 2nd Saturday afternoon of each month.
May 12th 1-4pm
May 26th 2-5pm (Alumni event)
June 9th 1-4pm
July 14th 1-4pm
July weekday morning TBA
August 11th 1-4pm
September 15th 10am-5pm (Small Engine Show)

Idea/Concept: Stacey Dondey
Videography: Ethan Chabala
Video Editing: Ethan Chabala
Writing: Stacey Dondey
Correspondent: Stacey Dondey

Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by Dunham’s Department Store

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