“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Staunton, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Gypsy Express

Gypsy Hill Park Train

Gypsy Express Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), April 9, 2021
1. Gypsy Express Marker
George Glenn Bartley, Sr. and Linda Bartley

The Gypsy Hill Park Train
The Barley Years

This Gypsy Express train is #732, the 232nd G-16 built by The Miniature Train & Railroad Co. It was completed on June 12, 1954 and delivered to an operator in North Carolina.

On August 8, 1957 Gilmer Nuckles, Sr. of Staunton Moose Lodge #1635 received approval from the Staunton City Council to place and operate a miniature train in Gypsy Hill Park. The train was owned and run by Mr. G.G. Bartley and sponsored by the Moose Lodge.

George Glenn Bartley, Sr. bought G-16 #732 and moved it to Gypsy Hill Park. He and his wife, Linda, ran it until 1991. The Moose Lodge donated their profits from the operation for city park equipment. The Bartleys decided that the train should stay in Staunton, so in 1992 they turned down lucrative private offers and sold it to the City.

The Miniature Train & Railroad Co.
Small trains for amusement parks were built as early as 1885. The Miniature Train & Railroad Co. began building them in 1935. By WWII it had 36 of its popular 12 gauge

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(wheel span) trains running in department stores and 50 running in amusement parks.

In January, 1945 P.A. Sturtevant of Elmhurst, IL began designing a larger G-16 train (G for General Motors, the manufacturer of the parent locomotive, and 16 for the 16 rail gauge). The scale was 1/5, exact even to the spacing of rivets and the number of leaves used in the suspension springs. The inaugural run of the first G-16, #501, was on June 22, 1946. It was powered by a slightly modified 22 HP Wisconsin VF-4 gasoline engine.

In April, 1948, with orders for nearly 100 G-12s and some 20 G-16s in production, the company moved to a new plant in Rensselaer, IN. By the end of 1948 MT&RC had over 250 operators of their trains in service with multiple trains.

Gypsy Express, Inc.
Staunton City Parks & Recreation operated the park train from 1992 to 1998. By 1998 it was decided that the train was unsafe to operate, and it was shut down. The City considered removal of the train.

On August 7, 2000 an open meeting was held at Montgomery Hall Park to discuss saving the train. Sixty-six local citizens attended, including G.G. Bartley Sr. The attendees formed Gypsy Express, Incorporated, a non-profit corporation dedicated to saving the train.

Gypsy Express contracted with the City to repair and being the train back to safe service standards, and to provide volunteers

Gypsy Express Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), April 9, 2021
2. Gypsy Express Marker
to maintain and operate the train. The City provided some start-up funding, but the bulk of the considerable expense of rebuilding the train came from private and corporate donations. All Gypsy Express members are unpaid volunteers. Gypsy Express funds are used only for train operation and maintenance, and to support Park activities.

The Gypsy Express Improvements
Gypsy Express volunteers began the rebuilding process in November, 2000 by moving the train to a warehouse for refurbishing and painting. In early 2001, Bartley Station was moved to higher ground and refurbished. A total 110 ton of fill dirt and 487 ton of stone were added to the roadbed while enlarging it to 798 feet long, moving it 15 feet further from the creek bed, adding drains underneath, raising it two feet.

The old ties were replaced by 598 new and larger ties, spaced 18 inches apart and under each rail joint. The old 8 lb. rail was replaced with new and heavier 12 lb. rail, bent by hand using a rail bender borrowed from Maine, and held in place with new hand-driven spikes and custom-designed flanges. A rail switch and siding was installed the crossings rebuilt, and crossing signal added.

Two new bridges were designed and built over the creek. The upper covered bridge is a single burr arch bridge. It is a replica of the 1884 Pine Grove Bridge in Chester County, PA. The lower bridge

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is a Pratt through-truss bridge. Pratt's design of 1844 reversed the slope of the diagonal members, placing the diagonals in tension and the posts is compression. The Engine House was replaced with a replica of the 1917 C&O Train Barn in Fraziers Bottom, WV.

The engine was cleaned and refurbished, all brake pads and brake cylinders were replaced, and the electrical accessories were repaired or rebuilt. The train was repainted in Santa Fe Railroad colors, adding a newly designed Gypsy Express logo. The train grounds were landscaped, a flagpole installed, a new loading platform was built, and new fencing was gates were installed.

The renewed Gypsy Express began operation on August 5, 2001.

A third car was designed and built to accommodate larger people and people with disabilities, including wheelchairs. It is the first of its kind in the U.S., and was placed in service on the June 28, 2003. The car is named in honor of Augusta County's Marianne Cashatt, who is an Inspiration to the Virginia community of people with disabilities and a member of the National Hall of Fame for Persons with Disabilities.

Gypsy Express is managed by a board of directors and is organized by six functions train, track, building and grounds, public relations, engineers/conductors, and ticket/merchandise sales.

Gypsy Express operates the trail on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from the end of April through October. There is also a Halloween run and a Christmas run in early December. Special runs at other times for schools and private groups may also be arranged.

The Gypsy Express volunteers who are most visible to the public are the ticket sellers and engineers/conductors. each of the five weekend shifts requires a minimum of three volunteers, but there are many more supporting them from behind the scenes. Gypsy Express has a volunteer roster of about 60 families.

The Gypsy Express would not have been possible without the thousands of hours of volunteer help from the community-at-large and very significant contributions by many individuals and local businesses, assisting in all phases.

The future of Gypsy Express depends on continued voluntary community support.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Bridges & ViaductsCharity & Public WorkParks & Recreational AreasRailroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Covered Bridges series list. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1945.
Location. 38° 9.586′ N, 79° 4.808′ W. Marker is in Staunton, Virginia. Marker is on Constitution Drive, 0.2 miles Thornrose Avenue, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Staunton VA 24401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 116th Infantry Regiment Memorial (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lt. Col. Jacob Earl "Shorty" Manch (approx. 0.2 miles away); Project Dogwood: Staunton's Tradition Reborn (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lewis Creek Watershed (approx. 0.3 miles away); Confederate Dead Monument - Thornrose Cemetery (approx. half a mile away); Augusta County Confederates Plaque (approx. 0.6 miles away); Stuart Hall (approx. 0.7 miles away); Staunton Military Alumni Memorial (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Staunton.

Credits. This page was last revised on April 10, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 10, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 291 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 10, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Apr. 17, 2024