The Maine 3-Railers use O-gauge models, meaning each quarter-inch corresponds to one real-world foot. John Terhune / The Forecaster

Local libraries offered guests a glimpse into a miniature world during school vacation week, thanks to visits from the Maine 3-Railers model train club.

Ronan Gonzalez visits the Maine 3-Railers’ exhibit at Patten Free Library on Feb. 23. John Terhune / The Forecaster

The group, comprised of about 120 members from across Maine, dazzled kids and their parents with demonstrations at Bath’s Patten Free Library Feb. 22-23 and at Topsham Public Library Feb. 26.

“We do fun for children of all ages,” joked Sam Carr, the club’s events coordinator. “And we keep retired men like us off the streets.”

The group attends three or four large events each year, including the upcoming Moxie Festival, Carr said. But it spends most of its time visiting veterans groups and assisted living facilities and setting up their tracks at libraries, where members hope to hook a new generation on the hobby many of them have pursued since childhood.

The Maine 3-Railers bring their displays to big events, veterans groups, assisted living facilities and libraries. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“Most of us were interested in trains because we had a piece of green plywood and some track when we were kids,” Carr said. “We’re guys who like trains, and we like to show them to people.”

The key to engaging today’s video game-conditioned youth is to incorporate sounds, blinking lights and other “eye candy” into their models, said Art Shean, the group’s layout designer.


Shean, a Topsham resident, first began collecting trains as a pre-teen and continued the hobby on and off through his years in the military. But joining the Maine 3-Railers has allowed him to explore a new facet of the model train world.

“I accumulated a lot of stuff, but I never had a place to set it up,” he said. “Sam introduced me to the club, and voilà: I ended up designing stuff.”

Shean uses computer software to map out detailed blueprints for each layout. When the group arrives, it usually takes two to three hours for them to bring his vision of trains, tracks and buildings to life.

Teddy Eschholz, 5, searches for hidden Disney figurines at Patten Free Library. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“I don’t like to have any layout the same,” he said. “I try to make sure every one is unique.”

The result is a tiny world packed with detail. The group use O-gauge models, meaning every one-quarter inch on the model corresponds to one real-world foot, according to Shean.

Children at the Midcoast libraries enjoyed the chance to dive into that world, said Monique Barker, a library aide at Topsham Public Library. She added they were especially enthralled with a scavenger hunt involving small Disney figurines scattered around the layout.

“I think every single kid did that,” she said. “They all seemed very excited.”

Yet as much fun as kids had, Barker said, their parents may have been even more appreciative of the Maine 3-Railers, after two years of children’s programming was limited by the pandemic.

“Families seem to really be looking for things to get their kids out and exposed to different things and different activities,” Barker said. “They’re really happy to have some programming back.”

Comments are not available on this story.