Model train show returns to Albert Lea for 19th year
Published 9:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2014
It’s 45 feet long by 15 feet wide. It’s been the model railroad layout for the Rusty Rails O Scale Club since 1990 and takes five to six hours, including breaks for conversations with onlookers, for two men to set up.
Men on Friday afternoon and evening from various organizations or on their own were setting up their toy train displays throughout the walkways of Northbridge Mall in preparation for the 19th annual Albert Lea Area Model Railroad Show & Swap Meet.
It all started 20 years ago when Tomah, Wis., stopped hosting a model railroad show. Jerry Monson of Albert Lea, who traveled to model shows all over the country selling new and used trains, saw an opportunity to host it in Albert Lea. Northbridge Mall said yes and has been supportive ever since.
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“It’s an opportunity to put the hobby in front of the public,” Monson said.
Ray Holzer of Owatonna was among the men in the Rusty Rails O Scale Club, which was founded in 1985. He said the layout averages three trains running at once and sometimes a fourth. They have eight members from Minnesota, eight from Wisconsin and another who winters in Florida.
He said two rails are DC current and three rails are AC current. He said the club wanted to show what could be done in DC with O scale tracks. He said it is easy to work with and parts are actually proportionate to real railroad cars.
“We wanted to be a little different,” he said.
Terry and Theresa Hacker of Albert Lea used to go to more model shows, but now just go to the one in Albert Lea.
Terry was a longtime employee of Canadian Pacific Railroad until a heart attack in 2004 left him on disability. He runs O-gauge trains on a layout that is 14 by 8 feet, which is expanded from last year with a lift bridge that enables him to not crawl under the display to get to the center space. He and his wife were leveling the display Friday.
By the way, gauge has to do with the width between the tracks, while scale has to do with the size of the models. HO scale is the most popular.
Meanwhile, their son, Joseph, was setting up a Lego railroad. It was the first time the Albert Lea model train show will have a Lego train displayed.
Model railroads typically are powered and throttle-controlled by the electricity moving through metal tracks to the locomotives, but the Lego train has plastic tracks.
Joseph said the engine is powered by a 9-volt battery and is controlled by a remote signal. It has rubber wheels and the tracks keep the train turning in the right direction. (Lego-loving parents, take your children to Brickmania Toys in Minneapolis on a Saturday to see spectacular Lego displays, custom parts and a big train layout.)
Vern and Sherry Kleiber have been coming to Northbridge Mall for the model show since 1999. They go to eight to 12 shows per year.
They have a layout that is built to travel and can be set up in 20 minutes, he said, if there aren’t interruptions. It is 9 by 16 feet and runs three trains. It is smaller than his previous layout, which was 11 by 20 and could run seven trains.
The display isn’t representative of a real place, like some seek to be, but Vern calls it Southern Valley. His wife, Sherry, painted all the little buildings.
Several men from northwest Iowa were patching together 14 sections to form a single 12-by-25 layout for HO scale trains. They were from the Prairie Lakes Division of the Thousand Lakes Region of the National Model Railroad Association, said Prairie Lakes Division Vice President Miles Rohan of Everly, Iowa.
He said their display has two mainline tracks but he said they are able to run many trains at once, up to 120.
They use what’s called digital command control for programming and running the model trains, allowing locomotives on the same section of electrical track to be controlled independently.
People coming to the Albert Lea Area Model Railroad Show & Swap Meet at Northbridge Mall will find eight layouts and 25 to 30 vendors selling model toys. The show ran Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be open again today 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.