Derailed Model Train Track Is Laid To Rust

August 18, 1991|By Jane Lippy | Jane Lippy,Contributing writer

HAMPSTEAD — Weeds cover the rails. Briars entangle the foot paths, and wild blackberries surround the deserted shacks used as a retreat and workplacea quarter-century ago.

This 8-acre parcel on Coon Club Road used to be home to Carroll County Narrow Gauge Railroad. Now, woodland creatures claim undisputed possession of the territory.

In the early 1950s, four model train buffs came to this spot to build a 9-inch-wide line to fit a scale-model steam locomotive.

Thelocomotive was owned by Harry Grant, an engineer at an airplane manufacturer. He was joined by Irv Kopp, a salesman for a paper company; Clyde Gerald, also an engineer; and Charles Buschman, a draftsman.

"We moved the railroads to Hampstead in 1953," said Gerald, 73, the lone survivor of the four, who lives in Baltimore. "We built a bunkhouse, shop, greenhouse, storage shed and phone booth or outhouse. Carsconsisted of a caboose, two flat cars to carry cement blocks, tank car to haul water, gondola, and hopper for sand and gravel."

The CCNGR project began in 1952, when Grant bought four acres from Royal Clagett, who was parts manager at Charlie's Camping Center in Randallstown, Baltimore County. Buschman purchased four more, making an 8- by 1-acre tract.

The train track ran for about 1,000 feet. A ramshackle bunkhouse served as the railroad's headquarters. The men had electricity but preferred the glow of oil lanterns.

Buschman did the survey work and enjoyed tinkering on mechanical things in the machine shop. The four, who dubbed themselves "vice presidents" of CCNGR, restored four locomotives, two of which operated on lawn-mower motors, and built the cars. Gerald constructed fieldstone walls, fills and abutments.

"Being from New England, I did the stone work," the Upton, Mass., native said.

The story of the CCNGR has long since been closed. But images reappear when people who were there recall what was away of life for the four men.

Clagett's daughter, Cathy Berry, 36, turned the calendar back to her childhood.

"My mom, dad, sister Becky, and I would walk down. It was cool, shady, and a real treat. Charlie Buschman, a tall, thin man with glasses and a laid-back personality, was friendly to us kids. He'd pull the engine out of the garage and hook it up. There was a little bridge and he'd blow the whistle. Then we'd go backwards. The whole trip was five minutes, maximum."

Katherine Groomes lived on the other side of the still-dirt road.

"I'd hear the whistle," she said. Her children frequented the spot, including her son, Rick.

"One building, the bunkhouse, was set up like an old caboose with an observation deck," said Rick, 37, a Westminster resident. "I was 8 to 12. They let me help put stone down and replace the cross ties. They were going to extend it up the hill but never got around to it."

His sister, Neva, 33, recalls the place"was really nice."

"Two men had it as a weekend thing. They'd tinker with the trains. There was an engine, caboose and one or two carsin between."

Hampstead resident Gilbert Wisner, who's president of the Maryland Steam Historical Society, knew Buschman and visited the scene often.

"After Charlie fixed it up, he rode it. But they needed more ties, so I sawed them out some. They extended the track through the woods about 1,000 feet."

Baltimore resident Gordon Buschman said that after his brother's death, he came to Coon Club Road andand took a lathe, drill press and small stove to the Streetcar Museum.

The four train buffs, last together in 1973, went separate waysbut kept in contact. Grant moved to Los Angeles and died in 1975. Kopp passed away in 1987. Buschman, 62, who died last February, designed the Baltimore Streetcar Museum's Car House, on Falls Road.

Sadly, the project succumbed to "a slow death," Gerald said. However, the cars and equipment are now at the Baltimore museum. Gerald, who volunteers three days a week at the museum, takes an annual Amtrak trip tothe National Model Railroad Association. He last visited the Coon Club Road site in March.

"It was a happy time while we were together," he recalled.

A breeze wafts over the path at the site, still known as "the route of the chipmunks," the route of deer, fox, nature and friendship.

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