Playing second fiddle to Lego is palatable as long as it means young minds are jumping on board the modelling train.
“Right now, model trains seem to be a grey-haired hobby,” says Jerry Schmidt from the Golden City Railway Modellers. “So we are trying to keep younger people involved, that’s why we are having this Lego contest,” he added. “That’s what gets the younger people involved and started with models.”
Besides hosting an annual Lego building contest in the Waneta Plaza, the local club draws attention from the younger generation year round with its detailed replica of Rossland during the railroad heydays.
“The kids love it the first time they see it, and it makes a good babysitter for dads, when the moms are out shopping,” chuckled Bob Flegel, one of the club’s founders. “But a lot of people are still finding out about our spot in the mall.”
It took plenty of research over four years, steady hands and occasionally a magnifying glass before retirees Bob Flegel and Don Young finished the historical model of Rossland and the trains that chugged through town until the 1950s.
Since completing the Alpine City vignette in 2010, the model has travelled to Edmonton and Kamloops twice, Calgary, and up the hill to Rossland three times for the city’s fall fair.
“In Edmonton we won second place twice,” said Flegel. “Lego won first, some of those models are really something to see. But wherever we take it, people love it and it has also won the popular vote.”
The local club was formed in 2006 when Flegel and Don Young combined interests in all aspects of model train building.
They hoped, “if you build it they will come,” when they started construction on a scale model of the city and the trains that ran between Second and Third Avenue.
“An idea was born,” said Flegel, “We’d been to a number of model railroad conventions and saw what they did and said we can do this.”
The modellers began construction of the Rossland replica in the back room of a Rossland wine shop. By 2009, business and space became an issue and the project was ready to move.
That’s when Linda MacDermid, Waneta Mall manager, stepped in and made them an offer to use the empty space next to the children’s ballroom.
Since then, the club meets twice a week in the food court to shoot the breeze and maintain the display that is open to the public Wednesday and Saturday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“I am a train guy and travelled across Canada, the States and Europe four times – even in Malaysia, I rode the trains,” said three-year member Henry Fleming. “I came down the mall one day and was talked into joining the railway club.
“There’s a row of chairs (in food court) down the side called the BS section and workers bees everywhere else,” he chuckled. “And it’s been great to get together because we all have something in common.”