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Cecil County Life

On the Octoraro rails, in miniature

Oct 28, 2021 02:54PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Photos by Moonloop Photography
Text by Richard L. Gaw

In 1865, the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad began building a line from Oxford to Rising Sun that would take passengers from Philadelphia rural towns south of the city. The line reached Rising Sun in 1868 and with the demand for freight out of Baltimore, the railroad continued the line to the Columbia and Port Deposit Railroad line -- which ran from Perryville to Harrisburg -- at Octoraro.

The railroad was a masterpiece of functionality, ingenuity and expansion, forging through the countryside, hauling passengers, soldiers to the Naval Training base at Bainbridge and freight to factories and mills throughout Cecil County and beyond.

Just a short distance from where the Norfolk Southern Bridge crosses the Octoraro, Chris Coarse of Conowingo Models has resurrected that bygone era in the form of his HO and O scale craftsman kits designed for those who have turned parts of their homes over to their passion for model railroading, or those who are just starting the hobby. Each item – flatcars, cabooses, boxcars, train depots and homes and stores, all made of real wood – is created to illuminate its uniqueness and character. In fact, some of the items Coarse makes for his customers are similar in design to actual structures, such as the Pennsbury Mill.

Two-and-a-half years after Coarse began his business, Conowingo Models now provides model railroad enthusiasts with kits to customers as near as Cecil County and as far away as Australia, Switzerland and England.

“I think our continued fascination with model railroading has to do with imagination,” Coarse said. “Most of those who begin to conceive of what they want in a model railroad have something in mind, and while it may appear cloudy to them, they have a vision, and Conowingo Models helps them get started on their way.

“A lot of enthusiasts I’ve come to know start out with a model railroad when they are kids, and then give it up when they get to college or start a career because they liken it to playing with toys. When they get to having children of their own, however, many have expressed to me their desire to get back to model railroading comes from seeing their kids’ enjoyment of it.”

To learn more about Conowingo Models, visit, or check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

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