Will Huffman created the beginnings of the Expo in December of 1990 at the Lycoming County Historical Society’s Taber Museum in Williamsport, PA. As a volunteer there with the Shempp Model Train Collection, Will set up a small train to circle the Christmas tree in the lobby. “Every Christmas tree should have a model train running around it,” he quipped.
The next year, Will was given a small exhibit area in the museum and invited
some of his “train buddies” to bring in their layouts. Thereafter, the Toy
Train Expo became an annual event at the museum, continuing to grow in size,
scope, and attendance every holiday season through 2005.
In 2006, due to space limitations at the museum, the Toy Train Expo moved one
block east to multiple areas in the first floor of Park
Place, a large historic building along West 4th St. Park Place
was originally an ornate 4-story hotel constructed in the mid 19th
century era to house passengers arriving by the adjacent railroad line.
2006 also marked a change in the date of the Expo
from mid-December to the weekend before Thanksgiving. That year the Expo also
began it’s association with Preservation Williamsport’s Victorian Christmas tradition, held
the same weekend.
The keystone of Williamsport’s Millionaires Row
National Register Historic District, this Civil War era railroad hotel was known
originally as the Herdic House Hotel. Commissioned by lumber baron Peter
Herdic, the historic hotel was built by Eber Culver, the architect who designed
most of Peter Herdic’s and the City of Williamsport’s historic buildings.
Construction was completed in 1865.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the
building became know as the Park Hotel After the Third and Fourth Floors of the
Park Hotel were removed (coincidentally by Will’s grandfather’s business,
Huffman and Sons Construction), the building re-opened as the Park Home for
elderly ladies in 1940. It continued in that role through the late 1990s.
In July of 2000, three local businessmen, former
U.S. Congressman Allen E. Ertel, businessman William C. Brown and local
preservation architect Anthony H. Visco, Jr., purchased the Park Home and began
extensive renovations and selected restoration to the now, renamed, Park Place.
All three men located their businesses in Park Place, anchoring its position as
the ‘Flagship of the Historic District’.
Full of “ornate doors and marble floors, rooms,
nooks, and crannies,” Will always liked the idea of showcasing toy and model
trains in what was once a premier railroad hotel in the Northeast.
Will’s passing in 2011 at the age of 81, the Toy Train Expo has continued under
his sons, Eric and Bruce, along with “trainloads of help” from numerous
dedicated exhibitors, volunteers, donors, sponsors, and the support of the
community. We are proud to continue Will’s vision of “a gift for the community
for children of all ages.”
We thank the folks from both the Taber Museum and
Park Place for their many years of generosity and help in hosting the Toy Train
Expo. We hope it continues long into the future with “clear tracks ahead!”