GULFPORT, Fla. — There’s a train of generosity and fun rolling down the tracks in Gulfport this holiday season. The conductor says it’s the best way he knows how to give back to the seniors who live in his community.
“I've been collecting these trains since I was a child,” said Bill Drexler. “Most of these trains are my trains as a child. They’re 60-years-old, some of them are older than me, they are in their mid-70s.”
Every December, Drexler turns his Gulfport garage into a miniature Christmas village.
“Well it’s better than my bedroom that he wants to take over,” said wife Betty.
This year, Bill and Betty invited the Gulfport Senior Center to climb aboard the speeding locomotive with them.
“For many years I was a volunteer driver for Meals On Wheels and I wanted to stay connected to them and when I went back and approached them they thought it was a great idea,” said Bill.
One of those seniors whisked away with excitement was 99-year-old Margaret Reilly.
“In fact, I was born in Canada and came to the United States on a train,” said Reilly. “I think that was a great idea. It really is. It was a fun time and I think people should display their things and their talents when they have them.”
Bill isn’t just entertaining, he’s also raising money, asking anyone who stops by to donate to the Gulfport Senior Center Foundation. He’s already eclipsed $288.
“We do things such as the fitness center, help with the food pantry, we purchased video cameras for them for use during the pandemic,” said Gail Gravell, with the Gulfport Senior Center Foundation.
When it comes to the model, Bill isn’t afraid to get creative, even including Godzilla. There’s even a tiny version of Gulfport’s Hoyt Field where the senior softball team, The Boomerangs, plays.
“Well it’s nice being a lot smaller, as we keep getting older that field keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” joked Boomerang Bill Roscop.
Who knows, since Bill has been so good this year, maybe Santa will leave a new caboose under the tree.
“We’re a kid all year long, we do another display in the spring and summer and people come back at that time too,” said Bill.
Bill and Betsy are opening up their model train set display to the public two more times this holiday season, on Dec. 28 and Jan. 4 from 6-8 p.m.
The model is located at 5314 10th Avenue South Gulfport. For more information call 407-908-5868.