Ask an expert - FRANK ROZICH, MODEL TRAIN COLLECTOR

 

Last updated 1/10/2024 at 2:21pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Collector Frank Rozich of Willow Springs said every car and engine in his collection has a story to tell. He's brought together a portion of his vast assembly to tell the story of how the railroad has impacted Hinsdale throughout its 150-year history. (Jim Slonoff photo)

What is your train exhibit about?

Frank Rozich's interest in model trains goes back to childhood, when he would occasionally be allowed to play with a train that once entertained his father as a child. Decades later, that train now sits on Rozich's mantle and is the flagship piece in what has grown into a prolific collection.

A portion of that collection now fills the display cases inside a room at the Hinsdale History Museum at 12 Clay Street. Titled "Miniature Rails, Massive Impact: Hinsdale's Railroad History," the exhibit explores both the evolution of the miniature train and the role that Hinsdale's life-sized railroad had on its founding and development and still has today.

While he enjoyed playing with trains as a child, Rozich said he didn't start collecting or restoring the toys until about a decade ago. Post retirement, he found golf and gardening held his interest in warmer months, but he needed a winter pastime to keep himself occupied. Always one to enjoy working with his hands, Rozich began searching for model train cars and engines to repair and restore.

He rewires each piece with period-correct wiring and lights, and repairs or replaces parts as needed. Some get a new paint job, but others he leaves as is, letting the faded colors and chipped paint tell their story.

"If they could only talk," said Rozich, who added he often finds himself thinking and wondering about the children who played with his collection in the decades and generations before him.

"I just get a big, big kick out of it," he said.

Rozich said he began his collection by searching out pieces to build a replica of a train set that was part of his family's Christmas tradition. The youngest of four, he said his three older sisters have uniquely fond memories of the train, all of which he incorporated into a replica that is now part of his home and a small portion of his collection.

As the village celebrated its 150th birthday, Rozich was encouraged by his daughter-in-law, Hinsdale Historical Society Trustee and past president Carrie Rozich, to share his collection with the rest of Hinsdale.

The pieces on display at the Hinsdale Historical Society chronicle the evolution of toy trains from the late 1800s to today. A few of Rozich's pieces date back to the days before electricity, requiring the operator to wind the piece up to make it move.

Most are products of the Lionel company, which has been making toy trains since 1900.

Many pieces in Rozich's collection are replicas of cars and engines that likely passed through Hinsdale at one time or another. A timeline assembled by museum staff helps to paint a picture of the role the railroad has had in the village. The exhibit also includes pieces of art, including prints, paintings and drawings, that illustrate the railroad's impact on the town and its history.

The exhibit will remain on display at least through February, Carrie Rozich said. Visitors are welcome to tour the exhibit, and the entire Hinsdale History Museum, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, Jan. 20, Feb. 3 or Feb. 17, at 12 S. Clay St.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean

 
 

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