Train enthusiasts reminisce at convention


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Photo by Yesha Chokshi |

The New York City Model Transit Association hosted its 13th Annual Mass Transit convention Saturday on the College Avenue campus.


Railroad operating layouts, scratch-built dioramas and a wide variety of transit-related items were on sale Saturday during the 13th Annual Mass Transit convention in the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.

Presented by The New York City Model Transit Association and ?The Shore Line Trolley Museum, the event also featured a display of vintage buses in the parking lot.  

The Rutgers Student Center was the location of the first convention, said Nate Gerstein, an organizer from the association. This year, the convention hosted representatives from New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Connecticut and welcomed guests from England, California, Chicago and Maine.

“I’m 71 years old and I’ve been doing this since I was 14,” Gerstein said. “It brings back memories [from] when everyone was kids, when trolleys were in.”

Bill Wall, the president emeritus of The Shore Line Trolley Museum, highlighted the importance of the convention.

“Transit is very much what makes the big cities go, makes them possible, makes them go,” he said. “This meet is a celebration of all that.”

All the proceeds collected from the convention will benefit the museum, located in East Haven, Conn.

“[The museum] was really hit by the hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and right now we are building two buildings that are higher up in elevation to get half of the collection out of the flood way,” he said. “That is one of the reasons why this show is going on — to support our efforts.”

Gerstein said the museum exhibits real operational trolley cars, subway cars and electric buses, serving as a perfect resource for those interested in transit.

The convention also featured a model contest that was divided into two categories, said Tony Tieuli, a model builder.

“We have the most popular model contest for the attendees of the show and the judged model contest,” he said. “The model has to be the original work of the contestant to be eligible and the winners get a plaque each.”

Many of the convention’s guests who presented models have been involved in this hobby for more than a decade. Vern Gillman, one of the charter members of the New York Model Transit Association, has built models since 1958.   

“I lived where I could watch the elevated train. There are different kinds of EL trains, built in different times,” Gillman said. “That EL train was torn down in 1940 and I was only nine years old, but I remember. I remember and I duplicated some of those cars and models.”

Quentin Carnicelli, owner of Q-Car Company Inc., also attended the event. He has built models since he was five years old and decided to make a living out of this hobby.  

“I was a computer programmer in 1972 when I left Hertz,” he said. “I could not find a job for an entire year, so I said ‘let me see if I could make a living [building models].’ I advertised in a magazine that I could make custom-made cars for people, and the response was overwhelming.”

Carnicelli grew up in a town that had a streetcar and always wanted to buy his own. This inspired him to create his own streetcar models.

“The street cars were very unique to each city … in model form I have to do the same thing if I want it to be accurate to the original,” he said. “I used to crawl [under the street cars] in the museum to get the measurements. Forty-one years, and I’m still doing it.”

Tony Hall, founder of the New Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society, recalled the days when the streetcar industry was one of the largest in the country before the onset of automobile.

Hall said he would like to see more transit museums constructed in the state.

“We hope one day we have a railroad museum, most likely in Rahway, and then we’ll have trolley rides,” he said. “There are already many, many railroad museums in the country and it’s about time that New Jersey had one.”


By Tanvi Acharya

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