ST. GEORGE — Over 20 homes are opening their doors to celebrate Veteran’s Day and National Model Railroad Month with monumental indoor and outdoor model train displays.
The Color Country Model Railroad Club is inviting people to interact with animated, three-dimensional art at their annual Model Railroad Tour beginning Friday. Twenty-one homeowners will open their doors to the public, allowing people of all ages to wander around the miniature worlds they have created.
Tim Fitch, a member of the club, said events like these give model train enthusiasts a goal to reach, setting a firm stopping point for the continuous project of building and maintaining large-scale displays. Other model train enthusiasts come to events such as the annual Southern Utah tour, and it gives club members the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals.
“It’s really just meant to share something that we’re passionate about with others that are interested in model railroading,” he said.
Fitch found his love for model trains through his father, who passed away before he could create anything nearly as large as his son’s current display.
Throughout his display, Fitch has historical communities and businesses that previously existed, like “Hell on Wheels,” a transient group of temporary gambling houses, dance halls, saloons and brothels that followed the army of Union Pacific railroad workers during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s.
Fitch’s display even includes a kid-friendly Thomas the Train set.
“A lot of what we do is like, ‘don’t touch it!'” he said. “This is ‘touch it, and make it go.'”
Fitch’s display is spread out and doesn’t include too many structures, themed around communities and trains that existed before 1950.
“For a lot of folks, it’s nostalgia,” he said. “They come back and they remember that train. … Those are really fun things to be able to mimic history and the past and have people recognize. It brings art to life, and it’s fun to watch people experience that.”
Fitch said model trains are a versatile hobby with adaptable time requirements and economic commitments. Those wanting to get involved can start out with an inexpensive beginner’s kit from auctioning websites or online retailers, or they can build their own.
Fitch spent multiple hours every day for months preparing his display and keeping up with maintenance. He built a large majority of the layout using cedarwood and natural landscaping materials. Parts of his display, like the stream, were already a part of the backyard’s landscape before the trains.
“It’s more time and labor than really anything,” Fitch said. “It takes years.”
There are many facets to the hobby as well, he said, and some people enjoy other parts more than others. For Fitch, it’s a combination of understanding construction, pyrotechnics, hydraulics and electrical work, but it can vary depending on the aspects of a display.
At the moment, Fitch’s display is cut into two, large but separate units, which he intends to combine in the near future.
Every display, however, is different. Club members who are presenting their displays at the tour have a variety of different themes and layouts. There will also be a mix of indoor and outdoor displays, which differ greatly, each having their own benefits.
“So, yes, there’s 21 layouts, but there’s 21 very different layouts,” Fitch said. “It’s fun to go see what everybody’s interpretation is on a model railroad.”
This year, the Color Country Model Railroad Club is donating a locomotive and train cars to the pediatric’s waiting room at Dixie Regional Medical Center where officials plan to install tracks. The local veteran’s home also has a train display in the lobby.
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