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Published December 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

Hooked on trains and sharing their craft

Most of the men in the Newport Model Railroad Club got into trains at a young age — either because they lived near railroad tracks, or were given a train set for Christmas, said member David Blume.

By: Patricia Drey Busse, South Washington County Bulletin

Most of the men in the Newport Model Railroad Club got into trains at a young age — either because they lived near railroad tracks, or were given a train set for Christmas, said member David Blume.

For Blume, it was both.

He and the other members of the club get together twice each week to painstakingly craft miniature landscapes, buildings, tracks, bridges and train cars. And this weekend, they’ll showcase their work for the public in open houses Dec. 26, 27 and 29.

At the annual open houses, Blume said he likes to watch little kids react to seeing a caboose or passenger train — things they probably wouldn’t see in real life anymore. And he also enjoys hearing the recollections the trains stir up in older folks.

“It’s the memories that seem to ignite people and I like seeing that.”

Housed in its own building next to Newport City Hall, the Newport club’s layout contains more than 3,000 feet of track, 250 switches, 100 locomotives and 800 freight cars. Recently added is a staging yard on the lower floor where the trains start from and return to.

It gives members a place that’s out of view to switch out the different trains.

“Upstairs, people get to see several trains go by, but they might never see the same train go by twice,” he said, “so it almost looks more realistic as far as the operations. It’s not just around and around and around.”

With so much track and so many trains, the five or six club members who run the operation during the open houses use headsets to communicate with each other to avoid any collisions. The setup uses digital command control, which allows the operator to have independent control of each locomotive with a handheld throttle.

The group funds its activities through monthly dues, and by organizing three flea markets for model railroad paraphernalia vendors each year at Woodbury High School.

Blume said some people characterize what the club does as “playing with trains” but it goes much deeper than that. Many of the cars and landscape elements have been carefully replicated from old photos, he said.

“Some people build model cars, some people build planes, some people like to do scrapbooking,” he said. “This is kind of an art form in action.”

For more information on the club and the open houses visit www.newportclub.us.

If you go

What: Newport Model Railroad Club Open House

When: 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 26, 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 27 and 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 29

Where: Old Newport Town Hall, Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street in Newport

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