Arthur Hill, 3, of Brunswick drives a train while visiting the ExTRAINaganza with his grandfather, Maurice Dionne, and grandmother, Rita Dionne of Wales at the Great Falls Model Railroad Club in Auburn on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Mark Sylvester, 8, likes being a train conductor.

On Saturday morning, a train he “conducted” ran from Mechanic Falls to Lewiston in about three minutes.

It is not the fastest train in the world. Instead, it is one of the many model trains on display at the ExTRAINaganza at the Great Falls Model Railroad Club on Mill Street.

The club’s annual open house features two floors of train layouts — the top floor boasting a new, antique, recently donated model of a Lionel locomotive built between 1949 and 1951, the oldest model on display.

“This old beast was built sometime between 1948 and 1951,” said club member Carl Butland of Lewiston, holding the black train. “It still runs almost as good as the day it was made. I hate to sound like an old-timer, but they built stuff to last. You don’t throw it away and get another one,” Butland said.

Casey Barnett of Mechanic Falls and her 3-year-old daughter, Avery, watch the trains during ExTRAINaganza at the Great Falls Model Railroad Club in Auburn on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Butland said the collection was donated by Richard Proctor of Greene. He said that rather than sell everything off, the club decided to start fresh and build a festive track layout, complete with a model IGA grocery store and vintage cars driving on tiny streets. Converting the two floors into realistic models and layouts takes some work.

“We usually start about two weeks before this event, getting the place ready and layouts cleaned up,” Butland said.

And the track, which runs around a few trees, harkens to the memories that drew Butland to the hobby in the first place.

“My great grandfather and his brothers all worked in the railroads and, somewhere, the gene was planted in the family. I’ve liked trains since I was a kid,” Butland said.

“I started when I was 6 years old with my father’s Lionel set around the Christmas tree. The next year,  I got my own set for Christmas. I’ve always been into trains,”

Club President Mike Meserve said some of the layouts are based on the actual locations, with miniature versions of real buildings, like Day’s Barbershop in Mechanic Falls. But space is always an enemy.

“There are other layouts that really get the details in, with the actual streets,” Meserve said. “But you have to have space for it. That’s the constant thing; having space.”

Meserve added that the model railroad hobby is truly expansive and requires a variety of skills, from wiring and carpentry to computer science.

“It involves carpentry to build the layout, do the track work and modeling design, as well as building the buildings and putting everything together,” Meserve said.

“It also involves computers. We have a computer set up so that we can actually run the trains with our phones. So you can do a lot now today. In the ’50s and before, you just had a big transformer with a crank on it. Now, you can have computer control through your phone. It gets the kids interested because it involves computers.”

Meserve said it is not easy for the club to find and retain younger members these days.

“Unfortunately, the electronic age has thinned out the younger members,” he said. “We have a small group of junior members — kids from 6 to 18 years old. Some of the juniors have been here long enough that they’ve graduated to senior memberships.”

Mark Sylvester is one of those young conductors. And when his voyage came to an end Saturday, he spoke excitedly of the experience.

“It was hard at first,” he said, “but it got easier as I got through.”

Meghan Andrews of Buckfield and her 5-year-old son, Hudson, watch the trains during ExTRAINaganza at the Great Falls Model Railroad Club in Auburn on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Great Falls Model Railroad Club president Mike Meserve, left, talks with Matt Sylvester of Mt. Vernon and his 8-year-old son, Mark, during ExTRAINaganza at the club in Auburn on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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