The annual miniature train display at the Main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library
Frank Wobst loved trains. The late former chairman and CEO of Huntington Bancshares was born in Dresden, Germany, and was 11 when the city was destroyed in a series of U.S. and British air raids in World War II. The one toy he always wanted, and never got as a child, was a train set.
After his banking career began to take off in the U.S., a train set was one luxury he indulged in. By the 1980s, he'd reserved the attic of his family's Bexley home for a 300-square-foot electric train set that included 23 Marklin-brand trains from Germany, powered by 16 transformers, traveling through tunnels and past German-style villages and mountaintop castles. "It was quite elaborate," says his daughter, Andi Wobst-Jeney. "We weren't allowed to ever go up there without him. It was his passion."
That passion spilled over to his work, when, in 1992, a miniature train display was set up in the lobby of Huntington's Downtown headquarters at Broad and High streets. It wasn't so miniature, either, with eight trains and a trolley running on more than 300 feet of track, immersed in imitation snow and a number of featured buildings, including a 6-foot replica of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden-a church that was destroyed in the war; Wobst later helped finance its reconstruction. The display was open to the public weekdays until 4 p.m., and was a popular Downtown attraction. "We would all go visit him, to see the train in the lobby," says Wobst-Jeney. "It meant a lot to him to have it there."
In 2009, just a month before Wobst died, he donated the train display to the Main Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. "We went to see it set up at the library that first year," says Wobst-Jeney. "It was the last time I ever saw my father walk. Two days later he left for Florida, where he died less than a week before Christmas."
The Huntington Holiday Train at the Main Library opens to the public Nov. 30.