Railcar toy collection planned for Nov. 12

Nov. 6—About 1,700 toys were collected in 2021 by a group of railcar operators who make a 40-mile journey every November on the Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad line from East Huntingdon to Hempfield.

That was twice as many toys as the event collected for Toys for Tots in 2020, organizer John Gonder said.

"It's going up every year exponentially," he said.

The railcars will take to the tracks Saturday for the annual collection. There are about 16 railcars registered, though Gonder said a few more may be added.

Stops are planned at several communities along the rail line collecting new unwrapped toys that members of the North American Railcar Operators Association direct to a local Marine Toys for Tots program. Donors can stop the caravan at any railroad crossing. Railcars are small cabs once used by railroad companies to inspect and maintain lines.

Gonder said the event, which started in 2016, has grown in several communities along the way and weather has not deterred donors. The group also collected $2,700 last year.

With high inflation affecting many wallets, the added help this year might be needed. The railcar operators' efforts are the first big event of the season, said Doug Hurst, local coordinator for Toys for Tots. Applications for families seeking help getting toys for their children are starting soon.

"I have a feeling this year might be up again," he said.

The caravan will depart the Savage Intermodal Terminal in East Huntingdon at 8 a.m. and stop in Mt. Pleasant at the Route 31 crossing at 8:25 a.m.

The rail line runs along Jacobs Creek and the Westmoreland-Fayette border and will take the caravan into Bridgeport, Everson, Scottdale, Tarrs, Ruffs Dale, Hunker and New Stanton. Operators estimate they will be in Scottdale at 10 a.m. and Hunker at 11:10.

The rail line runs parallel for a time to Interstate 70 and then alongside Route 119 and the Five Star Trail. Operators hope to be in Youngwood at noon.

The line crosses over Route 119 near South Greensburg and heads toward Greengate Center, where the caravan will make an extended stop near Aroma Joe's (891 N. Greengate Road) around 1 p.m. before heading back south. Operators expect to be back in Youngwood around 2:05 p.m. and in Scottdale an hour later. The journey should wrap up around 4:40 p.m.

All times are approximate.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .