Selbyville to showcase new train museum

Selbyville Mayor Clifton Murray will officially open the town’s new railroad station museum Saturday, June 18 at 9 a.m. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will kick off the 49th annual Old Timers’ Day, a daylong celebration and longtime Selbyville tradition.

The museum, housed in the restored Selbyville Station, will be located in the downtown area, next to the town hall and water tower on Church Street.

The museum movement started when Gary Taylor, the town administrator who spearheaded the project, approached the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) with a grant proposal to restore the old train station. The submission was approved and the planning, bidding, contracting and construction began. A little more than a year later, Santone Contractors completed the building.

The museum has already amassed between 100 and 150 display pieces, according to Taylor. Residents and businesses donated about 80 percent of the items, he said. The remaining items are on loan.

“One lady said ‘you gave me an excuse to clean out my attic,’” he said. “She gave us a whole bunch of stuff.”

The collection includes old telegraph and Teletype machines, bank teller windows, Cozy Coop chicken crates and a replica of the building, which was last used by Sidetracked Antiques and, before that, as town hall. A railroad club in the area has begun to manufacture a maquette of Selbyville, complete with to-scale models of the town’s businesses.

The back room of the museum will be dedicated to remembering the Selbyville police department’s history. The law enforcement stockpile includes the force’s original uniform, radar and the pistol of its first chief, Ward “Junior” Collins, whose son Scott is the town’s current chief.

Taylor expects the museum to continue expanding.

“It will get better as time goes by,” he said. “People will start donating more.”

Town officials anticipate the assortment of rail-related antiques will attract out-of-town and local train aficionados, according to Taylor.

“You’d be surprised how many railroad clubs there are around,” he said. “And they’ll come up and man it for you too.”

Georgetown recently restored its old train station and installed a railroad museum. It drew about 3,000 people in 2004, according to Carlton Moore, chairman of Historical Georgetown, the group responsible for the attraction.

“It’s bringing a lot of train enthusiasts,” said Rita Smith, executive director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce. “We have some train schedules from back in the 1800s and the maps actually have family names on the areas. A lot of folks come by to see their names on these maps.”

Railroads first came to Selbyville in the late 1800s, transporting tourists and goods. In the early 20th century, the town was the nation’s foremost supplier of strawberries and had six tracks to support its flourishing fruit industry. Buyers would come down from New York City to participate in the produce auctions, which took place at the site of the museum. Vacationers would ride into Selbyville Station and stay at the nearby hotel. They would then take wagons to and from the beach.

Nowadays, however, the CF7s 2630 and 2632 trains that stop in Selbyville, along the Maryland & Delaware Railroad’s Seaford Line, move products but not people.

“When you visited in those (olden) days, you stayed for a month,” Taylor said. “Over time, it became more of a trucking industry when the chicken factories came in a major way.”