Where a gift shop failed in Sykesville, a model railroad club has a proven track record.
The Sykesville and Patapsco Railway club has refurbished a Pullman car and made it home to its model layouts. Members would like to expand the display into the attached caboose, which Gloria Lapkoff recently vacated after her shop failed to attract customers.
"Any business would have a tough time at that location," said Mark Bennett, club president.
Both cars are on the old tracks behind Main Street and Sandosky Road and just out of view of commercial traffic.
"The cars are a great calling card for the town," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "We want more foot traffic in that area, too."
The club has drawn about 700 visitors this year to its monthly open houses.
"We have a good record for bringing people into town," Mr. Bennett said at a Town Council meeting Sept. 11 . "And that is before this year's Fall Fest or Christmas. The gift shop had difficulty bringing people to that corner, but we haven't."
The club members would like to restore the caboose to its original bright red, complete any structural repairs and add a B&O; logo.
The Town Council gave its unanimous approval to the project. Town officials said they probably would work out a nominal lease with the club, which is made up of volunteers who donate their time to the restoration effort.
"I notice the good progress you all have made with the Pullman," Mr. Herman said. "I commend your efforts, which you have done with virtually no budget."
The caboose will still be a store of sorts, but this time for railroad memorabilia and souvenirs.
"It won't be for profit, but maybe then we could support [club activities] through sales," said Mr. Bennett.
Because the caboose is smaller than the Pullman, it will be easier to control its temperature, he said. The cavernous Pullman was often difficult to heat.
Officials would like to add one more car, a blue caboose parked on another side track. Restoring that car, which once caught fire, will be more difficult, Mr. Bennett said.
"It would be a tough job," said Mr. Bennett. "First, we would have to move it to a more secure location."
For now, he said, the club will have its hands full with two cars.
Members meet each Saturday to work on the Pullman. Now, they will be looking for donations of red paint. They hope to have another display ready for the town's annual Fall Festival on Oct. 14.
The club will open the Pullman car for visitors from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday and the first Sunday of each month. Admission is free. Information: 795-3157.