DENNIS TOWNSHIP – For almost 17 years, Joe Jones of Clermont enjoyed sharing his love of trains.
Visitors saw hundreds of sets of trains and miniature cities, villages and industries at his business, Flyertown Toy Train Museum in Clermont.
On Dec. 31, he decided to shut down the museum and store. High insurance rates partly contributed to the closing, he said.
"That got me bad," Jones said.
He ran the museum since the 1990s and the last two weekends saw large crowds come through the museum on Route 9.
"Most people are very sad to see a little place like this close," Jones said.
Comments from people were always positive, he said.
Mostly, Jones said, he will miss the museum visitors.
He will keep his trains, he said. Jones expects friends to stop into see his collection on Route 9 in Clermont. He said he will also be on hand to repair trains.
Jones is still trying to sell the remaining stock in his museum store, which include train kits.
Around October, he noticed his insurance going up for both his home and business, so he shopped around for better rates. That's when things fell apart, Jones said.
He said his insurance rose to about $600 a year for the business and $1,200 for his home a year. The business’ policy went up $50-$60 and for the home, more than $120, according to Jones.
In the end, insurance companies didn’t want a business on a homeowner’s policy, he said.
He said would be fortunate to bring in $3,000 during the year in operating the business. Since he opened the museum in the 1990s, he relied on Social Security and his pension to help cover costs.
He charged $3 admission for adults and did not want to increase the cost. Children could tour the museum for $1.50.
Jones indicated that he was more interested in showing trains than making money.
Running the train museum allowed him to see children grow up, he said. Jones has some of their pictures in albums and elsewhere.
He has been a train collector for more than 35 years. Jones got his first Marx train when he was 1. Jones is now 77.
His favorite trains in his collection are the American Flyers. Jones had more than 200 of them, in addition to pre-Lionel and Marx trains.
In a previous interview, Jones said the Flyertown Toy Train Museum ran on solar power. The system was installed during the summer of 2011.
Trains aren’t Jones’ only hobby, though. He also builds ship models.
Jones and his wife, Florence, moved to Cape May County about 20 years ago.
He worked for more than 40 years for the Federal Aviation Administration and served in the Navy from 1954-58.