People have passed by the rusting train cars and railroad equipment along Geigertown Road in Union Township and wondered why they were there.

The collection was started almost 40 years ago by a teen who loved everything about the railroad, David J. Shirey. He was known as "D.J." so as not to be confused with his father, David D., and grandfather David O. Shirey.

It was D.J.'s maternal grandfather, John Ellwanger, who stoked his passion for railroads.

“He worked on the maintenance of way, which was the repair of the tracks and the derailments and that kind of stuff,” D.J.'s brother Paul Shirey explained. 

D.J. graduated from Daniel Boone High School in 1985 and went to work on the railroad.

He loved track life so much, he even married his wife, Frances, on a locomotive in 1991. The cake had black spots on it that looked just like puffs of a steam engine exhaust, said D.J.'s father, David, now 78.

"I said ‘that’s pretty neat’ and he said, 'no, it’s the soot from the engine that blew back',” David recalled.

D.J. ended up dying doing what he loved. On Oct. 4, 1993, a crane fell on him when he was trying to right a derailed train in Hamburg while working for the Blue Mountain & Reading Railroad, Paul said.

At age 26, he was gone, leaving behind a wife, baby daughter, extended family and several railroad engines and cars.

“After he got killed we turned it into the railroad museum to honor his collection of stuff," Paul, 48, said.

Neither Paul nor David knew much about trains, they said. They've tried to maintain the collection as best they can, but David has been disabled for a while and now uses a wheelchair. Paul runs Shirey's Trucking across the street from the trains in the building that was home to Shirey’s Cash & Carry for about two decades. It was a grocery, deli and hardware store.

When asked if he had a favorite piece in the collection, Paul answered quickly.

“Probably the last one we got in here, the Mack 4 Engine," Paul said. "It’s kind of something different looking. It looks like a boxcar, but it’s actually an engine that can drive by itself."

According to the August 2020 edition of Railfan & Railroad magazine, the boxcab was built in 1924 by General Electric and operated until the 1950s at the Mack Truck plant in Allentown. It came to Geigertown in May.

David's favorite piece is a bright red engine that has white lettering that says "Geigertown Central R.R. 7767 In Memory of D.J. Shirey. The train car number is D.J.'s birthdate: July 7, 1967.

While the museum does not have specific hours, Paul and David said visitors are welcome to come and take pictures during the day and can offer a donation, if they like.

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