Mr. Dennis Shore was a well-loved Kew Gardens Hills community member who passed away in November 2019. Chol HaMoed was always a time when community members could call and bring their children to his house to see his treasure trove of model trains. His oldest models include a #42 train from 1923 and a #29 from 1915.
A few years ago, this writer enjoyed a fascinating interview and tour of Mr. Shore’s impressive collection of all types of model trains, which filled his entire basement, complete with tracks and tunnels, lights, and old subway signs and more. Stepping into his basement was like stepping into a world of trains. His collection included 400 locomotives or engines and about 1,200 cars, including diesel, steam, and electric engines, and freight, passenger, and trolley cars. He also owned over 200 model subway cars and commuter trains like Metro North and LIRR train models.
Mr. Shore dimmed the lights in the room and the model train lights and miniature traffic lights shone on the model trains that chugged along the track, emitting what appeared to be real steam and genuine train noises. The basement even took on the scent of an actual train station.
Mr. Shore shared, “Trains are so impressive. They are big and fast and powerful. They are the largest vehicles that can move across land. Even the lowly subway car has more than 500 horsepower.” He smiled as he viewed the panorama of his magnificent train collection. “A perfect day is a train-related day!”
He shared his passion for trains generously with so many in our community and beyond. Ohel Simchah Pre-School came to see his collection during Sukkos and the children dressed in overalls. One of the teachers created train tracks from the street to the Shore home and the children wore engineer hats. They even brought a cake shaped like a train engine. Mr. Shore was part of the curriculum.
He also demonstrated his trains at a pre-school in Great Neck and he brought the trains to YCQ when his daughter was a student there and demonstrated them for the children in the school cafeteria. Parents would call during Chol HaMoed and ask to bring their children to his house to see his trains. Mr. Shore would say, “Sure, just give me an hour and come on over.” Mr. Shore would bring his train collection to day camps in Kew Gardens Hills, as well. The kids loved it and he loved interacting with the children.
He grew up in the South Bronx. His mother told him a story about his first encounter with trains. He was 18 months old and it was a cold, snowy, winter day. He lived in a five-story walk-up apartment. Suddenly, his mom noticed he was not in the house. She raced frantically down Freeman Street looking for him. She found him at the corner, gazing up, entranced at the elevated subway.
He was a special friendly presence in our neighborhood. A neighbor reminisced how Mr. Shore invited him in to see the train collection, and when he saw it his jaw dropped. “He was so special and always friendly,” he said.
One time, he suggested an idea to a toy company, and they asked him to help design it. He wanted to create subway cars with announcements, and he even got permission from the train museum to scrape some paint from a train so the toy cars would be the same color as the real ones. He recorded the subway train announcements in his house. He also volunteered at a trolley museum in Connecticut. This was a labor of love as it was a grueling, long day.
In my interview, Mr. Shore shared that “My actual job was working as an industrial engineer for the US Postal Service. I worked there for 31 years, 20 of them at JFK Airport. This model train hobby spills into real trains. In my free time, I worked at the excursion railroads. I was a Motorman at the Shore LiHisne Trolley Museum near New Haven, Connecticut, for 14 years and a qualified NORAC (North American Operating Rules Accreditation Committee) conductor at the Naugatuck Railroad in Waterbury, Connecticut, for seven years. Driving it fulfilled my dream to run a subway train. I also used to also work part time for hobby shops fixing Lionel Trains.”
Dennis Shore is survived by his wife Rachel, daughter Lauren, and son Joshua. He is greatly missed and his family should be comforted with the mourners of Tzion.
By Susie Garber