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Warther Museum

Zoar Valley Trail

Arts, Entertainment & Sports Railroads

An ebony and ivory carving of New York Central & Hudson River Railroad’s Engine #999 created by Ernest Warther.

The intricate art of woodworking is a craft that takes an immeasurable amount of patience—patience that Ernest “Mooney” Warther (1885–1973) had demonstrated since he was a young boy. Though Warther’s formal education ended in just second grade, his talent and ability to carve wooden depictions of trains from the steam locomotive era branded him as an artist, genius and even inventor.

Warther understood the meaning of hard work and responsibility from a young age—his father died when he was only 3 years old. At age 5, Warther began his first job. He helped his mother and four siblings as a cow herder, taking cows to and from the pasture for only a penny apiece. While taking out the cows one day, Warther stumbled upon a rusty pocket knife. [1] The discovery changed the course of Ernest Warther’s life. With the knife, he began whittling sticks and any other wood he could get his hands on.

Usually crafted from ebony or walnut, Warther’s trains are carved and made from thousands of individual pieces. Even accents and details on the locomotives appear to be painted, but are in fact minuscule detailed carvings. [2] Warther’s exceptional talent did not go unnoticed during his lifetime: Henry Ford offered to buy Warther’s train collection, and the works were displayed in Grand Central Terminal In New York City, at World’s Fairs in Chicago and St. Louis, and in various department stores. Warther even went on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, where in 10 cuts, in less than 10 seconds, he cut a pair of wooden pliers and set a new record! [3]

Known for his wit and storytelling, Warther was well liked by anyone who crossed his path—everyone was a fan. People from all over the world traveled to Dover, Ohio, to see the man with the crazy hair who carved so perfectly. By the end of his remarkable career, Warther had completed 64 scaled and working representations of steam locomotive history. [4]

To see Warther’s hobby beautifully displayed, The Ernest Warther Museum and Gardens are open for the public to enjoy.

 

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