'Speeders' to collect toys for tots

Larry Maynard, of White Deer, stands by his speeder car, which will be among more than 20 such vehicles riding the rails of the North Shore Railroad this weekend, collecting donations for Toys for Tots.

WHITE DEER — More than 20 “speeders” will be traveling along North Shore Railroad tracks this weekend, collecting gifts and monetary donations for the Toys for Tots program.

Larry Maynard, a White Deer Township man who coordinates the event, said this marks the 16th year the North Shore Railroad will be hosting the North American Railcar Operators Association (NARCOA) for a toy-collecting event along its tracks.

He said more than 20 “speeders” or “motorcars” will take to the tracks for the event Saturday and Sunday.

The “speeder” which Maynard operates was built in the 1980s. He said the vehicles, which are powered by lawnmower engines and built specifically to be used on railroad tracks, are part of the history of railroading.

“They started with the birth of the railroad,” Maynard said. “They were used for track inspection.”

Eventually, the railroads started scrapping the vehicles, many of which have been purchased by enthusiasts.

NARCOA, Maynard said, has about 1,000 members from across the country. It’s a national organization which restores the railcars and charters railroads from across the country for excursions.

The run this weekend will leave Northumberland, along the North Shore Railroad, at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The group expects to arrive in Danville between 9 and 9:15 a.m., Rupert between 10 and 10:15, Bloomsburg between 10:30 and 11 and Berwick between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

A second run will take place on Sunday. Members of NARCOA will be riding along the Union County Industrial Railroad, from New Columbia to Allenwood. The group will then travel south from West Milton to Lewisburg.

Sunday’s event is expected to be in the area of RollerMills Antique Mall, Lewisburg, at 10 a.m.

While on the weekend run, Maynard said the cars will stop anywhere they see individuals with new, unwrapped toys to donate to the cause.

“Danville is the hot spot,” he said. “There’s always a lot of people waiting for us there.”

Last year, Maynard said the run collected between 3,000 and 4,000 toys and between $2,000 and $3,000 in cash donations for Toys for Tots.

Participants will bring their cars from a wide area to participate in the event.

“There’s guys from Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Indiana (participating),” Maynard said. “There’s a guy coming from Michigan.”

Those who participate in the hobby of driving the cars on the rails tend to travel distances to enjoy the activity.

“We’ve been up to northern Canada, where the polar bears are,” Maynard said.

While Maynard’s “speeder” is from the 1980s, others have vehicles which span the decades.

“Some guys have them from the ‘30s,” Maynard said.

Some spend thousands to renovate the “speeders,” with Maynard estimating body work costing between $6,000 and $7,000.

“It’s not a cheap hobby,” he said.

While the collection for Toys for Tots has become a popular event locally, Maynard said the effort has spread across the country.

“There are five other groups of speeders around the country that do this,” he said.

Anyone unable to donate a toy during the event can do so at any locations which accepts Toys for Tots donations.

For more information on the event, contact Maynard at firefighter5@jlink.net.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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