I brought my 5-year-old daughter with me when I visited The Station in New Cumberland.
I don’t usually take her to work with me, but a model train store seemed like a place a child would enjoy. I was right.
And, besides, The Station itself is a family affair.
At the door, we were greeted by Julie Payne, daughter of The Station’s late owner, Richard “Dick” Wildman. Julie’s mother, Doris—or, Dee Dee, as everyone calls her—has been running the business with the help of friends and family since his passing a year ago.
Julie and Dee Dee were warm and open, and the store (an old reconstructed train station—more on that later) was bustling with family and customers. Julie’s nieces, Michelle and Nicole Huffer, help out at the store, as well, and Julie’s sister, Tracy Huffer, does all of the accounting and paperwork.
They offered us drinks and snacks, even allowed my daughter to sit and color at the counter with Dee Dee when she got antsy and let her try a new Hershey’s candy that isn’t on the market yet (she still talks about it).
It’s worth noting that I didn’t get special treatment because I was writing a story on the Station. Everyone is treated warmly when they walk through the door, and it’s that welcoming atmosphere that has kept The Station in business for 60 years.
“We know all of our customers really well,” Julie said. “They’re like family.”
The Station exclusively sells hobby trains and accessories, which seems pretty niche, but people that are into hobby trains are into them, and many of them have been coming to The Station for decades.
“There are people who come in here who came here when they were kids, and now they bring their kids here or even their grandkids,” said Julie.
The store itself has a fascinating origin story.
August “Gus” Wildman IV, Julie’s grandfather, was a model railroad enthusiast and began operating a hobby shop out of his home in 1945. By 1955, his business, called Model Hobbies, carried a complete line of structures and accessories, and even manufactured kits for buildings and other structures that hobbyists could rebuild on their own.
In 1957, Gus saw an ad for an original Reading Railroad station in Robesonia, Pa., that was going to be demolished. So, he bought it for a few dollars and, with the help of family and friends, disassembled it on the weekends, brought it to New Cumberland piece by piece, reassembled it in a lot next to his home, and moved his business there. In 1970, Dick came home to help his father run the business and, when Gus passed away in 1978, Dick and Dee Dee took it over.
The building, which is now more than 160 years old, is a labyrinth of sorts, with rooms upon rooms of all sorts of supplies, almost like a time capsule. Even though the shop doesn’t manufacture its own kits anymore, parts and instructions for them are stocked in the back, just in case they’re needed.
Julie and Tracy have worked at The Station in some capacity since they were kids, and after just a few minutes of conversation, it was clear how much the place means to them.
“[I used to work] as a child packing ballast, building paper and barrels for the wholesale business,” Julie said. “I remember hearing my dad hum or sing in the back as I was stocking shelves.”
The Station is truly a special place, and worth a visit even if you aren’t into model trains. It’s cozy and unique, and a welcome change from the big box stores that we tend to visit by default.
The Station is located at 213 9th St., New Cumberland. For more information, call 717-774-7096 and visit their Facebook page.