Student develops website for Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad museum
As a freight train conductor, Jen Gavin traveled the Norfolk Southern Railroad from Hazelton to Philadelphia.
Now a senior at East Stroudsburg University, Gavin has used her passion for trains to create a website that will help the Lehigh & Keystone Valley Model Railroad Museum in Bethlehem to reach a broader audience.
The museum at 705 Linden Street recreates in miniature the Lehigh Valley regional rail system from about 1965 to 1975, including many landmarks, such as the train station in Easton and the Phillipsburg, N.J. Free Bridge.
Gavin, who is majoring in English with a concentration in professional writing and new media, designed the website for the nonprofit museum as part of her senior seminar capstone project.
In doing so, she saved the group hundreds of dollars while gaining important skills in her field.
“I always wanted to learn about website building and this gave me a chance to jump in with both feet,” Gavin said. “I learned a lot. It was really my first time trying to entice the public to go somewhere so that was quite the challenge.”
Louie Blaukowitch, one of the museum’s founders, said the cost of hiring a designer to create an updated website would have been prohibitive for his organization.
Blaukowitch had fashioned a basic website but said he didn’t have the expertise to do the kind of redesign that was needed. Among Gavin’s improvements are a video of the model trains in action and a “map button” that allows viewers to click on it to get directions to the museum.
Blaukowitch said he’s pleased with the results of Gavin’s work and glad his group could help her gain experience in the kind of career she hopes to pursue when she graduates.
Bill Broun, an associate professor of English at ESU, said Gavin spent long hours on the technical aspects, which were new to her, as well as the creative side of website design.
“The big challenge was learning about coding at a level of sophistication she hadn’t experienced before,” Broun said. “She’s always just been incredibly hard working and serious about learning in a way that’s a real joy for a professor.”
Gavin made the website easy for viewers to navigate with clear and accessible information on everything from the museum’s history to its hours, cost and directions on how to get there. She plans to continue to make some improvements.
“Part of what the students are learning is how to work with potential customers,” Broun said. “The clients have their own vision of what they want and what they need, so in some ways there are compromises and the customer is always right.”
The combination of Gavin’s writing skills and website design knowledge should give her a competitive edge when she begins looking for work in the business.
“The department is enormously grateful to the museum for allowing our student to work with it,” Broun said. “We’re really appreciative of the chance to do some service work.”