February 17, 2013

Model railroads lure enthusiasts to capital

Hundreds gather for the Whitefield Lions Club's annual fundraiser at the Augusta State Armory.

By PAUL KOENIG Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA - Stephen Burns remembers admiring trains as a child, but he's not sure why he fell in love with model railroads.

click image to enlarge

Connor Ruttenberg, 2, of Turner pushes the button to unload logs from a model railroad with some help from Joanne Burns of Friendship at the Maine 3-Railers display Saturday in Augusta.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

"I don't know what it is," said Burns, 73. "I'm not fascinated in the least bit by video games or slot cars. I've always been fascinated by trains, and I probably will be as long as I last."

Whatever the reason, he wasn't alone in his passion at the annual Whitefield Lions Club Model Railroad and Doll House Show held Saturday at the Augusta State Armory.

Event organizer Steve Laundrie said that each year 700 to 800 people usually attend the event, which is the club's second-largest fundraiser behind its Windsor Fair activities.

Burns sat in a chair with the model railroad track in front of him. His wife, Joanne, sat to the side of the track, helping children control a miniature log loader.

The Friendship couple are members of the Maine 3-Railers, a model railroad club that meets monthly in Richmond.

Paul Lodge, secretary of the Great Falls Model Railroad Club in Auburn, said he thinks model railroads are popular because there is a lot of creativity involved in designing the track and scenery.

Also, model railroads allow people to control something, unlike much else in life, Lodge said.

Jerry Johnston, of Minot, said he has been using model trains since the early 1980s and joined the Great Falls Model Railroad Club in 1997.

"That's what really put me in deep," he said. "I've been head over heels since then."

Johnston said he has around 100 model train engines and 700 square feet of track layout at his house.

Both the 3-Railers and the Great Falls clubs had large model railroads set up at the show that were running throughout the day, as well as some smaller tracks. Vendors also sold model railroad components and dollhouse supplies.

Model railroads may be a popular hobby, but it's not a cheap one.

Johnston said decent train engines cost $50 to $70, and cars cost around $15. Some vendors had engines priced at more than $100.

Laundrie, who has been organizing the event for seven years, said he doesn't have any model railroads.

"I admire these people," he said. "I'm afraid if I did get into it, I'd wind up in the poorhouse."

Paul Koenig can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:



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