The late George Wireman was a long-time writer for The Catoctin Banner. He also wrote for several other newspapers. He was Thurmont’s honorary resident historian, a local WTHU radio broadcaster, a volunteer conductor for the Walkersville Southern Railroad, and quite a character to know. He took great pride in building a huge model railroad display that was housed in his basement. Every December, he hosted a model train display open house at his house in Thurmont. For the past several years, a model railroad display has been available in Thurmont, and this year it will be located in the Thurmont Plaza Shopping Center at 224 N. Church Street, Ste C, on select days in December. This is a courtesy of the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers. See the Holiday Train Display ad in this edition.
Taken from a December 1995 Banner Newspaper, adjusted for this printing.
Local model railroad enthusiast George Wireman would welcome the public to his house every December to see his model railroad set up. George was a long-time lover of trains, an interest he credits to his dad. “My dad worked for the Western Maryland Railroad. I guess that’s where I got the bug.” It probably helped, too, that George was a frequent railroad traveler. In 1939 and 1940, George attended Hagerstown Business College and would catch the train every morning in Thurmont and every evening after school in Hagerstown.
George’s model railroad setup, called the “Monocacy Valley,” was named after the railroad of the same name, a steam engine that ran from Frederick to Thurmont and was a branch of the Washington-Frederick-Gettysburg Railway.
George took his model railroad very seriously. It took up nearly his entire basement and included a mountain, representing Catoctin Mountain, that was three-feet high and eight-feet long with a tunnel for the train line. There was also a bridge over a canyon that took George three months to complete. “I could have put the bridge together in one night, but I decided to haul each piece of ‘lumber’ for the bridge on one of the freight trains. I then used a model crane to lower each piece of lumber—made it more fun that way.”
The model railroad had two running lines of track, with various switches along the route to send the train into the railyard or onto a different track. His collection of trains included over one hundred freight cars; five different sets of passenger cars, including replicas of the Western Maryland Railroad and popular Amtrak; and numerous old-type coaches and locomotives.
What made the “Monocacy Valley” railroad even more interesting was the village in-between the lines of track. You’d find a vast array of familiar businesses, people, cars, trucks, and even an airport complete with planes and a terminal tower. George explained that “the village is not modeled after a particular community; instead, it pertains to things of my lifetime,” such as The Cozy Inn, where he used to be a host; Zentz Chevrolet-Buick because he used to go to school with Carroll Zentz; Nations Bank, where George did his banking; the WTHU radio tower, representing his involvement with our local radio station; a building for the Glade-Times Mirror, for whom George was a journalist; and even one for The Catoctin Banner since he also wrote for it.
You would see Hobb’s Hardware, the Thurmont Co-op, the police station, fire station, and even a very special Eisenhower memorial, built because of George’s fondness for this former president. There were billboards along the railroad and throughout the village to advertise local establishments, such as Hoffman’s Market, Kountry Kitchen, and the (then) Catoctin Mountain Trains and Hobbies.
There was so much to enjoy about George’s railroad that it was a must-see event.
George said, “I thoroughly enjoy working on the railroad; the work is never done. It’s a barrel of fun for me, and I enjoy sharing it with others.”
Maybe George’s railroad will put the railroad “bug” into someone else.