Model Train Home Tour opens doors to whimsical, creative worlds

A whimsical winter collection of Department 56 Snow Village and "O" Lionel Train paraphernalia sits on display at the home of Terry Schramm where he will welcome guests during the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – The Color Country Model Railroad Club invites the public to take a journey of whimsy and nostalgia as model train enthusiasts throughout the county open their homes and yards Friday through Sunday for the 2014 Model Train Home Tour.

This local group of hobbyists and engineers craft masterful displays of trains and other collectible paraphernalia creating detailed and intricate worlds that hearken back to childhood and the often romantic ideal of train travel.

As Paul Simon sings: “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance. Everybody thinks it’s true.”

In recognition of Model Railroad month, and back for another year of fun on the rails, the 2014 tour will feature 11 area homes, rails of many scales and a little something fun and inspiring for everyone; the kid and the kid in all of us.

Joy in scale

Terry Schramm’s love of model trains began as a youth, he said adding that when he was young it was very popular for boys to get trains for Christmas and that would be their whole Christmas.

A whimsical winter collection of Department 56 Snow Village and "O" Lionel Train paraphernalia sits on display at the home of Terry Schramm where he will welcome guests during the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
A whimsical winter collection of Department 56 Snow Village and “O” Lionel Train paraphernalia sits on display at the home of Terry Schramm where he will welcome guests during the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Though his impressive winter-themed collection of trains and snow village collectibles didn’t start until adulthood, he said he never forgot the joy that trains brought to his youth.

But for about five years, his display didn’t have any trains, Schramm said.

“The display began with the Department 56 Snow Village collectibles,” Schramm said. “Then, after about five years, I decided they needed some movement and that is when I started to buy the trains.”

What began with about 50 buildings – a result of the first five years of collecting – is now over 400 buildings strong with trains covering nearly every inch of wall space in his basement where the trains are housed and generously displayed for an adoring public.

“We get all sorts of groups down here to see the trains,” Schramm said.

Last year’s tour saw about 700 visitors who made the trek down to Schramm’s winter wonderland, he said adding that approximately 1,000 more community members came to visit the trains during 2013 holiday season.

Schramm meticulously cares for his display spending a good portion of each year tearing down one section only to rebuild, add in new snow and maybe change it up a little, he said.

Schramm is currently in the process of changing out the light bulbs to a lower wattage LED light that will aid in efficiency, power usage and, perhaps most importantly, his electric bill. Currently, he has switched half of the lighting to the more efficient bulb, he said and added that he has already seen a difference in his bill.

A whimsical winter collection of Department 56 Snow Village and "O" Lionel Train paraphernalia sits on display at the home of Terry Schramm where he will welcome guests during the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
A whimsical winter collection of Department 56 Snow Village and “O” Lionel Train paraphernalia sits on display at the home of Terry Schramm where he will welcome guests during the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

For Schramm, the trains have provided more than just a hobby, they have also been a place of refuge from daily cares.

As cemetery sexton for 12 years, Schramm said he was able to see both the best and the worst in people as they came to bury and grieve over their lost loved ones and, he said, being able to come home and tinker with the trains offered him a place to put his mind at ease, even if for only 30 minutes.

“You have a few bad days,” Schramm said. “When you have to bury children it helped to be able to come home and watch the trains.”

Creative engineering and inspiring ingenuity

Tom Scardina operates an “N” scale railroad from his home in Dixie Downs. Smaller in scale than Schramm’s “O” Lionel Railroad, the “N” scale has to be very particular, Scardina said, adding that you can fit a lot more into a smaller space.

An "N" scale model railroad at the home of Tom Scardina is ready for visitors of the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
An “N” scale model railroad at the home of Tom Scardina is ready for visitors of the model train home tour, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Schramm jokingly referred to the “N” scale enthusiasts as the “crazy ones,” but Scardina countered that there is a reason behind the methodical madness.

“If there is even a tiny bump in the track,” Scardina said, “you can derail a whole train.”

Scardina’s introduction into the model train world came when he was a teenager building trains with his dad, he said, and it never went away.

“It just gets in your blood,” Scardina said.

Scardina’s detail oriented set up, affectionately named “Just Another Damn Hole in the Ground Mine Company,” has been a labor of love for the past year, he said, as he has been working on the desertscaped scene while recuperating from surgery on his foot.

“It keeps my mind active,” Scardina said. “I work when I can and I have something to show for my effort.”

His tiny trains loop through tunnels, around the mine and across the desert which he has created using as many natural materials as possible that he has foraged from the area around him, Scardina said.

Both Scardina and Schramm want to spread the passion they feel for model railroading with the community and especially the youth to, as Scardina put it, “inspire future engineers.”

“We are trying to get younger people to enjoy this,” Scardina said. “We want to get them away from the video games and show them what they can build with a little creativity and ingenuity.”

The tour opens Friday and will continue through Sunday. Maps and hours are available online or at Gorilla Hobbies, 538 N. Bluff St. in St. George.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Event details

  • When: Friday-Sunday, Nov. 14-16 | Times for each home varies – see website
  • Where: 11 homes throughout Washington County, maps can be found here, at each home or at Gorilla Hobbies, 538 N. Bluff St.
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: Color Country Trains

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