TUCSON, Ariz. — Usually along with the sound of trains you would hear the ohs and ahs of families inside the Gadsen-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum.
“If you’re standing near the door when the kids come in or even the adults, you hear them, and they go wow if they’ve never been here," said Jeff Swanson, the president of the group behind the train museum.
It’s been quiet and a little lonely for the last year. "For the first couple of months, we kind of did a wait and see. And then we realized it was going to be a much longer time," said Swanson.
Last March, the museum shut everything down. “As a group, we pretty much stopped spending money as much as we could," Swanson said.
Now, he says members are busy making changes to be able to reopen. "We’re hoping to reopen in September, so we started to make some changes for that time," Swanson said.
One of the biggest changes is the expansion of the gift shop
"The layout that was here, we’re totally rebuilding down there. So, we have members that are building a brand-new layout," Swanson said.
They are hard at work, hoping to be able to keep the love of toy trains alive. "Our goal in the past was get as many people in here and it’s a great time. You'd have a line at the gift store and lines to get through and unfortunately that’s not going to be a realistic expectation in the near future," Swanson said.
Keeping track of the crowds will be one challenge. "Our donations definitely dropped because we were a donation based museum for a long time,”Swanson said.
Then there are repairs and maintenance to worry about. "Repairs to the roof, security, fencing, things we need to figure out how we’re going to do," Swanson added.
Later this year, they plan to be open every Sunday."Moving forward in the future, we are going to end up probably needing to charge admission just to help offset that cost," Swanson said.
The museum is also trying to find new members.
"What we’re really hoping to do is get our membership to grow so that we will be able to continue operating," Swanson said. Members come with all different kinds of backgrounds, like Bill Nunn.
"22 years in the Air Force and 27 with a pilot training company. I'm a flight simulator technician. So, I got thousands of flying hours and never left the building," Nunn said. From planes to trains, Nunn is the vice president of the toy museum and says it feels like a family here
"It's more than just a hobby. It's kind of a calling, " Nunn said.
A calling no matter your age. Who says you can’t keep playing when you grow up?
Click here for more information on the Gadsen-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum.