By John Last
SPARTANSBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — It’s an early December tradition in the Crawford County community of Spartansburg. Ron and Connie Sitterley show off their model trains as part of the town’s holiday celebration called ‘Christmas in Spartansburg.’ The event was held over the weekend and draws people from miles around.
“It’s just for their entertainment,” says Ron. “I like to see people smile. I like to see them remember what they had as trains when they were kids. Basically, we just talk to a lot of interesting people. Make a lot of interesting contacts.”
Ron rekindled his interest in model trains eight years ago when he traveled to West Virginia to ride a train powered by a Climax locomotive. He decided right then and there that he wanted to go back to his childhood hobby of model railroading and have Climax locomotives as the centerpieces of his collection. There is a local connection. The inspiration for the real Climax locomotives came from lumberman Charles Scott, of Spartansburg, in the late 1800s.
“Just outside of Spartansburg, where Old Route 77 and Route 77 cross, right in that area is where the guy came up with the idea,” says Ron.
The Sitterley’s train display not only has a holiday theme, it has a history theme as well. Connie designed a replica of Spartansburg for the trains to pass through. It shows the town as it would have looked around the year 1910.
“I had been doing some history of Spartansburg prior to this, so it just kind of blended in when we started doing the trains,” says Connie.
Connie’s miniature town includes the Lakeview Hotel that first opened in 1862. It survived three major fires in Spartansburg in 1878, 1898, and 1905. Unfortunately, it caught fire in 1918 and was never rebuilt. Also included is the Odd Fellows Building on Main Street. The real Odd Fellows Building is still standing and is now a hardware store. Connie also included a building that housed the town’s newspaper, The Sentinal, published from 1885 to 1924.
The annual display is a wonderful tribute to Spartansburg, to trains, and to Christmastime. For more information on the fascinating history of Spartansburg…go to Connie’s website, spartansburghistory.org.