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Model train group says 'all aboard' with open house

November 7, 2014
By Andy Gray , The Town Crier

Dean DeMain, vice president of the Youngstown Model Railroad Association, said the most asked question every year at the group's open house is, ''How long does it take you to set this up every year?''

''Our answer is -- 37 years,'' DeMain said.

The massive model train layouts -- O gauge trains on the top floor and smaller HO gauge trains on the lower level -- arent something that could be assembled in a few hours. Instead, they've been tended to for decades by members of the association, which started in 1957 and has called the former Four Mile Run Christian Church building home since 1978.

Article Photos

Town Crier / Andy Gray
Conner Hebb, 2, of McDonald watches a model train come around the track Saturday with his father, Cody, left, and his great-grandfather, Tom Shepherd of Austintown, at the Youngstown Model Railroad Association's open house.

To coincide with National Model Railroad Month, the group opens its doors to the public to show off its intricately detailed displays.

''It's a way to expose the hobby to the public and create revenue so we can keep our building,'' DeMain said.

The group has about 40 members, some of whom travel from as far as Pittsburgh and Massillon to participate.

Fact Box

What: Youngstown Model Railroad Association Open House

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 6-7

Where: Youngstown Model Railroad Association, 751 N. Four Mile Run Road, Austintown

How much: $4 with children ages 11 and younger admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

One of the new additions to the HO layout on display is a replica of the New York Central passenger station in downtown Youngstown, which was the first home of the association. It was built for a train collector's personal layout, but it didn't fit, so it was donated to the club, DeMain said. Even though the detailed building model was complete, extensive work had to be done to incorporate it into the existing cityscape layout.

The open houses, which run over three weekends, traditionally draw between 2,500 and 3,000 visitors total. Saturday's chilly, drizzly weather -- too wet and cold for yard work but not messy enough to keep folks from driving -- had both levels filled with visitors ranging in age from preschool children to their great-grandparents.

Conner Hebb, 2, of McDonald, intently watched the trains wind around the track, at least when the too-big train conductor's hat he wore wasn't slipping down over his eyes.

''I think it's pretty amazing, all the tiny little details,'' his father, Cody, said. ''He (Conner) loves choo choo trains. If it's moving, he's liking it.''

Conner's great-grandfather, Tom Shepherd, initially introduced himself as ''Choo Choo Charlie.'' He didn't get the nickname because he is a member of the club. He got it for his ability recreate the sound of a train whistle with uncanny precision.

Kendra McKay, a Mineral Ridge native now living in Reynoldsburg, was there with her sons, Brandon, 9, and Zachary, 5.

''We've always wanted to check it out,'' she said. ''We thought this would be a good opportunity.''

Jim Kravec, 8, of Canfield was scouring the layout looking for items on a scavenger hunt put together by the association.

''It's really fun,'' he said. ''I like the amusement park.''



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