A gift under the family Christmas tree in 1954 hooked a young Rick Kneisel.
And, no, it wasn’t a baseball glove.
It was a Lionel train set.
Kneisel has carried his love of trains with him his entire life, whether he was in Ohio or Georgia.
On Saturday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., Kneisel’s zeal for trains will be on display in his basement at 180 Richardson Place, just in front of Wilmington High School.
Kneisel has a running, multi-engine train display — Shady Hollow Scenic Railroad — set on wood for all to enjoy. The display is open for public viewing. No appointment is necessary to see the train layout. Kneisel also will have light snacks for those who visit.
While trains are the main ingredient in the setup, there is plenty to take in. Set in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kneisel’s train display has something for all ages.
Youngsters will get a kick out of the quirky aspects of the display, such as the occupied outhouse with the door open, while the veteran attendees will remember the cars or small-town feel of days gone by.
There’s also a checklist of things to find for anyone who wants to test their keen eye. For those who find everything on the list, there’s a coupon for a treat from Wendy’s restaurant, Kneisel said.
Kneisel’s train display is not his first. He had one growing up in the same house back in the 1960s. As one of the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paperboys of the Year, Kneisel had a photo taken with his train display in 1966.
When he went to Ohio University for college, his parents took the train set down but kept all the parts.
When he went to Georgia to teach and to coach baseball, Kneisel built another train display. That display appears in a Gorilla Glue commercial that has aired this year. Kneisel said the commercial — and train set — can be viewed on YouTube.
Kneisel returned to Wilmington to care for his ailing mother and then, after she passed, began coaching baseball at WHS in 2014.
Living in the home he grew up in, Kneisel cleared out the basement and began building another train display. Five years in the making, he’s finally finished and ready for everyone to see the Shady Hollow Scenic Railroad. The detailed town setting features stores, farms, businesses, hills, trees and a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.
For those who know Kneisel’s family, you may also recognize his parents — kissing in front of an ice cream shop where they had their first date — and other family members, including Ranger, in various parts of the display.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports