Model railroad open house

Nov 21, 2013

By Sophia Hadzipetros

The trains run on time every Tuesday evening in Birch Cliff.

That is the day a group of dedicated train enthusiasts hook up their steam engines and open the Scarborough Terminal Railway to freight and passenger traffic.

This is the Scarborough Model Railroaders Club, and for the next two Sundays, they are opening their doors and inviting the public in for a visit to an extraordinary world where time stands still and the trains are all running on time.

Driving by the clubhouse, you’re likely to miss it on first pass. The building is set back from the road, the address (17 Jeavons Avenue) hard to see.

Model railroader Bill Crich running train

A trip back in time

Step inside to find more than 1700 feet of railroad track, hundreds of train cars and engines, and beautifully detailed recreations of 1950s southern Ontario towns and stations on one floor, a modern-day replica of the Appalachian mountains on another.

Visitors are sometimes more struck by the scenery than they are by the trains. Club President Michael Marmoreo says he is surprised by the reactions they have gotten.

“I’m trying to run the train and they’re staring at the scenery”.


Scenery built by hand

Most of the scenery and lay-out is hand-built by the club members past and present.

In their current space for more than three decades, the railroaders originally rented one floor for their trains.

As the membership and collections grew, so did the need for more space.

Club members bought the building outright and have been renovating and rebuilding it to suit the needs of their railroads ever since.

“It’s always a work in progress, even though it’s finished”, says  Marmoreo of the constantly developing rail yards and buildings.

On the lower level, in Southern Ontario, you’ll find CN and CP trains running from Scarborough to Montreal, steam engines carrying coal, and replicas of trains like the Trans Europe Express.

It was shipped overseas in the 70s for the Ontario Northland Railroad to transport freight and passengers from Timmins to Toronto.

Dedicated model railroaders

Here you will find station master, Bill Crich, making sure the train coming into Belleville is on the right track.

“Back up. Forward. Up to the yard office. May I have your paperwork, sir”, he says to the engineer.

Upstairs, Chris Radwick, ‘hooked on trains since the age of 4’, is running larger size trains through the model Appalachian mountain range.

Fair warning. It’s best not to disturb the railroaders while they are running their trains as precision and concentration are key to making it all work.

With the numbers of trains – sometimes pulling up to 113 cars – making sure everything run on time and without collisions or derailments requires full attention and proper schedules.

The club’s computer savvy dispatcher, Tom Gretton, takes care of that job with specially designed software. He inputs the data needed to create the multiple schedules, including departure and arrival times, what cars are to be added to a train along its route, and to set the spots and times for track switching.

Watching the club members at work, it is easy to understand what draws them here –the whistle of the trains, the sound of the steam engine, and the trains running through the near perfect mini recreations of 1950s Scarborough, Toronto pre CN Tower, small town southern Ontario, and the Appalachian mountain range.

Open House dates: Nov. 24 and Dec. 1

Take advantage of the opportunity to watch these railroaders in action.

The fall open house is scheduled for Sunday, November 24 and Sunday, December 1 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

The club house is located at 17 Jeavons Road, admission is $5.00 for Adults, $3.00 for Seniors, and $2.00 for Children. You can also buy a family ticket for $12.00.

Sophia Hadzipetros is a journalist living in Birch Cliff.

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