This Harpers Ferry attraction has been hauling railfans for generations.
Chris Wallich’s father, Robert, started collecting toy trains as a boy in the early part of the 20th century. By the time he had children of his own, he had amassed a huge collection of Lionel engines and cars from the 1910s through the 1930s. But Robert Wallich was not content with keeping his treasures to himself. “He wanted people to share the love of trains like he did,” Wallich says. So, in 1968, he started a museum in the basement of his Harpers Ferry home.
A few years later, Robert Wallich decided to give his Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum a home of its own, and purchased a decommissioned Western Maryland baggage car. He moved that car—and his family—to a farmhouse on Bakerton Road. He installed 75 feet of toy train track inside the baggage car, looping it across bridges and through tunnels. “It’s trains that you won’t see anymore. These are big metal trains,” Wallich says. “They still operate. That’s how well they were built.”
Robert Wallich also laid a half mile loop of track near the baggage car for his collection of amusement park trains. “We used to buy them as junk, essentially. The parks were just closing down and wanted to get rid of them. That’s how the Joy Line got started.”
The Joy Line boasts three running locomotives, 10 passenger cars, three freight cars, a snow plow, a caboose, and a handcar that kids can crank around the track. Wallich took over the railroad after his father died in 1990, and now he, his wife, Donna, and nephew Aaron make sure the trains run on time.
They entertain occasional day care and school groups during the week but open to the public on weekends. The museum and railroad also get lots of visitors from Baltimore, Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C., where many embassies recommend Wallich’s place to visiting dignitaries. “We’ve had people from Germany, Japan, all over. A lot of folks from India come here,” he says. “Everybody has a good time.”
But the most faithful customers are the locals, some of whom have been visiting the Wallich farm for three generations. “We have kids that come here almost every weekend. From what I gather, it’s a bribe. If the kids are good and do their homework, they get to come up.”
It’s good clean family fun, and affordable too. A ride on the train costs just $2 per passenger. “We always kept the price down for our local folks,” Wallich says. The Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum & Joy Line Railroad is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-April to October, weather permitting. 933 Bakerton Road, 304.535.2521, “Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum & Joy Line Railroad” on Facebook
photographed by Carla Witt Ford