The Next Chapter for the Choo Choo Barn
Great news for fans of the Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg, PA – after a nationwide search for a new owner, the legacy will continue after nearly 80 years in the Groff family! Gary Russell of Stevens, PA recently purchased the model train layout along with the adjoining Strasburg Train Shop. With a passion for trains and a determination to preserve the layout and its history, the businesses are in the best of hands.
"A labor of love.” “A lifetime of work.” “One man’s legacy.” These words are associated with the Choo Choo Barn. The 1,700 square foot O-gauge train layout which opened in 1961 by George and Florence Groff soon flourished as a local Lancaster County, PA tourist attraction. It was the passion for model building, trains, landscape design and animation – all in detailed miniature – that set this display apart from the rest. Largely due to the self-taught talents of their son, Tom, the layout nearly tripled in size over the past 60+ years.
Tom’s desire to share the hobby of model railroading with the world turned into a lifelong career, with countless hours spent on custom scenes depicting lifelike realism and intricate animations. His passing in 2019 left a void in the business that his wife, Linda Groff, and daughter, Kristi Largoza felt would be nearly impossible to replace. For several years, they kept the layout going with the dedication of their loyal employees, even surviving through the difficult times presented by a global pandemic.
The focus was clear – the most important characteristic of the new owner would be a desire to preserve Tom’s legacy. The layout would not be dismantled, rather it would find a new life in the hands of someone equally dedicated to the model railroading hobby. Linda and Kristi did not waiver from the idea that the layout would live on – there had to be someone out there with unique talents such as Tom’s – a scratch builder, a tinkerer, a dreamer with the ability to create new and unique scenes for the layout, and someone who loved model trains. This person would understand the importance of preserving what Tom had built, yet have the vision to keep it fresh for future generations.