Museum trains on track to battle breast cancer

The newest addition to the Brandywine's holiday train display is a pink car promoting breast-cancer awareness.

Updated at 9 p.m. to add acquisition of caboose

The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art has given procrastinators reason to rejoice: Its popular holiday model trains will be displayed through Sunday, Jan. 28.

A new train car urges viewers to get on board in the battle against breast cancer.

Even better, the unprecedented extra time comes with an addition to the Brandywine Railroad O-gauge extravaganza: a train car that promotes breast-cancer awareness. So those who managed to schedule a trip to the museum during the display’s normal run will have incentive for a repeat visit: new details to enjoy amid smaller crowds.

Andrew Stewart, marketing and communications director for the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, explained that the display’s extension, driven by the public’s interest in a longer viewing opportunity, was made possible for the first time by this year’s schedule of art exhibitions.

Stewart said that Dave Jensen, a veteran of the train display, added the breast cancer awareness car last week.  “I asked him if it had any significance, and he said he put it up for personal reasons since he has a friend who is battling cancer now and in general to highlight breast-cancer awareness,” Stewart said.

Since May 2016, Victoria Browning Wyeth, the youngest member of the renowned Wyeth family, has publicized her battle with breast cancer in an attempt to help others. The granddaughter of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth said this week that Jensen contacted her to let her know about the addition that she and others had inspired.

“It’s for you and all the others dealing with this horrible thing,” Wyeth recalled being told.

Jensen, who found the new train car on EBay, said the Wyeth roots run deep at the museum, where members of the famous clan make regular visits. In addition to showcasing the paintings of multiple members of the artistic dynasty, the museum boasts a display case next to the model railroad with trains that were donated by Nicholas Wyeth, Victoria’s father – cars that once transported some of her childhood Barbies and Cheerios.

A pink caboose is the latest car to promote breast-cancer awareness.

The need for breast-cancer awareness, coupled with the positive reception the first pink car received, may have sparked a trend, said Jensen, adding that breast cancer has impacted his own family as well as those of neighbors and co-workers. On Sunday, visitors were treated to another pop of pink: A breast-cancer-themed caboose Jensen ordered arrived in the mail.

Jensen said the trains “are all about spreading joy,” something that has been a staple of Victoria Wyeth’s life and makes the addition of the pink cars even more appropriate.

Wyeth said she appreciated the fact that Jensen understands the devastating impact the disease has had on millions of families.

She said there seems to be an increase in diagnoses for women in their late teens, 20s and 30s, giving them a potentially longer time to agonize over whether the cancer will return if they survive the first or second bout.

Nicholas Wyeth applauded Jensen's ingenuity. "Dave, the awareness you've shown is wonderful and certainly original," he said.

Victoria Wyeth said shortly after her diagnosis her uncle, Jamie Wyeth, sent her a fitting morale-booster that was a play on her nickname – Vic. Inside a golden frame were interlocked breast-cancer ribbons that spelled Vic-tory.

"I'm honest with myself and realize that some days will be better than others, but I am intent on maintaining a fiercely positive attitude," she said.

She noted that although pink was not a color that dominated her late grandfather’s palette, she’s confident he would have applauded the display.

“I truly believe that these new pink trains would bring tears to his eyes,” she said. “They certainly do for me.”

The model train display features trains running on nearly 2,000 feet of track and includes more than 1,000 pieces, including locomotives, passenger and freight trains, and trolleys that pass through a small town, a farm, factories and even a carnival. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.brandywine.org/museum.

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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