August 19th, 2017

Model railroaders trying to get public on track

By Lethbridge Herald on March 19, 2017.

Open house continues today

J.W. Schnarr
Lethbridge Herald

A local model train club is hoping local residents heed the call of “all aboard!” and check out their open house this weekend, which continues today.

The Southern Alberta Model Railway Club is holding the open house at its building in Gyro Park. The event continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

Bill Smienk, superintendent for the club, said it hosts two open houses a year. This is the first open house held since an addition was made to the building they use in Gyro Park.

This weekend, visitors can check out a large “HO scale” display which is a permanent feature of the building, as well as a portable “N scale” display.

In model railroad terms, HO has a slightly different definition based on the country. In North America, HO scale means 3.5 millimetres represents one real foot. It creates a ratio of scale of about 1:87.1. This scale is used to measure the width between the rails.

“Each size has its own designation for the width between the rails,” said Smienk. “HO is the most common scale you can get, so there are all kinds of things available for it. But you can go larger or smaller than that.

Recently, a large donation of “G scale” trains was made to the club, which Smienk said will be built up as part of the overall display in the building.

“We’re going to do something either up along the ceiling or along the walls,” he said.

G scale is one of the largest scales used in model trains. Smienk said often, these types of models are found outside.
“It’s ‘G’ for garden scale,” he said . “The rails are much wider, and the locomotives are quite a bit bigger.”

The donation came from a local woman whose husband and father were train enthusiasts who amassed a large collection during their lives.

“Once we got a look at it, we really appreciated the commitment to wanting to have these trains come to a group that was really going to appreciate it,” said Smienk.

“With us having them now, it’s something that the public will be able to enjoy for years to come.”

Smienk said train hobbyists are drawn to the activity because of the challenge, and the fact there are many different facets to the hobby. Activities include benchwork – creating layouts for the train environments, crafting scenery, working with electronics, as well as the collection and maintenance of the trains themselves.

“People who are into carpentry get involved,” said Smienk. “People who are artistic get involved. There are people interested in the mechanical aspects of running the trains, and historical aspects that might become part of it.

“It’s very multi-disciplinary in the sense that it has a lot of different appeal to a lot of different people.”

Club members rely on one another to share their expertise and provide opportunities to learn from one another.

Model trains are a popular hobby in North America and Europe. Enough people are involved that the hobby supports conventions and clinics where enthusiasts can sharpen their skills or pick up new ones.

This weekend’s event is more about getting out, enjoying the hobby, and making contact for anyone interested in getting involved.

“It’s an opportunity for something that people of all ages can really enjoy,” said Smienk. “It’s really quite fascinating. And it might be something that you are interested in.”

The club holds events in Gyro park on Tuesday nights, and anyone interested in becoming a member or learning more about the hobby is invited to come to an event or attend an open house.

The Southern Alberta Model Railway Club also runs a website at

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