ST. GEORGE — Taking in trains during the Color Country Model Railroad Club‘s annual open house brings back childhood memories and a chance to share with family. The open house runs through Tuesday.
“When I was little, my parents gave me a Lionel train. And I had it set up in the garage. I always loved dinosaurs, and I’ve always loved trains,” Ron Smith said. “Now that I’m retired, I can be a kid once again. And all around, I’ve kind of blended the landscaping in with the trains.”
His backyard in Sun River looks like a petrified forest with a small village as if one is in Arizona or Utah. It combines Smith’s favorites; landscaping, gardening, trains and dinosaurs. The landscaping is proportional to the train.
This year, the club’s Lionel Project Railroad is part of the model train tour and mixes traditional set-ups with new technology. The club’s original display has post-war Lionel tracks, interfacing with the newer Lionel FasTrack.
“We tried to interface the old with the new; Lionel trains have been around 100 years,” Bob Mallory said. “There are all different kinds of accessories for trains, from conventional to digital.”
A few of the club’s members have Lionel model trains. They built this display so they could transport it. Sharing the history and love of the hobby has been one of the goals of the group.
In 1900, Joshua Lionel Cowen founded the Lionel Manufacturing Company in New York City. His first Electric Express model train was displayed to attract more visitors into stores by making window shopping exciting. When Robert Ingersoll, a toy retailer, put the train in his window, shoppers did not want his products; they wanted his train.
Originally, the Lionel trains went around the Christmas tree in the early part of the century, according to the company’s website. Now they are transitioning into the digital age. Recently, the company released a layout control app that allows users to control their train sets using an iPad.
“We’re always working on new initiatives that resonate with our brand,” former Lionel CEO Jerry Calabrese said. “Newer generations are used to interacting with changing technologies, and companies are working to adapt to this audience. Lionel is no exception. While our model train sets remain our primary focus, we’re creating new ways to engage with them. ”
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