Monday, July 4, 2011

This model train group has giant plans

This article is from June 24! Sorry for the delay. 4th of July preparation caught me on the hop this year...

Kansas City Star: This model train group has giant plans
If all goes well for the Kansas City Garden Railway Society, a record will fall today at the Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe.

The society hopes to claim the spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s longest model train, which now is held by Miniature Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. The record has stood since 2005.

“Several American train clubs have attempted to break the Hamburg record, most recently in 2008 when an Arizona group tried and failed,” said Dave Roberts, president of the Kansas City Garden Railway Society. “This is our first attempt.”

The assault on the record starts about 8 a.m. today in a room at 20050 W. 151st St. in the Great Mall on a 3,000-foot track laid out especially for the record attempt. There is no admission charge.

“Our G-scale train is approximately 1,500 feet long and powered by seven locomotives interspersed throughout the train to maintain a steady speed and power output on the track,” Roberts said. “The Hamburg train that set the record was 893 feet long. Our train must circle the track twice without stopping to qualify for the record. If it does stop before making the two trips we can go back and start over. There is no time limit.”

Organizers hope the interspersed locomotives will spare them the repeated derailments that thwarted the attempt in Arizona. That train, local organizers said, failed because slack throughout the train caused cars to jerk when locomotives up front pulled on the whole thing.

The record has to be certified by at least two witnesses who will sign affidavits regarding the length of the track and the train and other details of the attempt, Roberts said. “Ray Manley, a society member who lives in Gardner, will be at the train’s controls for the record attempt.”

The try for the record is in conjunction with the 27th annual National Garden Railroad Convention held this week at the Overland Park International Trade Center. This is the first time the Kansas City Society has hosted the national convention, which attracted about 1,000 out-of-town model train enthusiasts.

Members of the society who operate garden scale locomotives — about the size of a large loaf of bread — in their home gardens contributed locomotives and cars to make up the 1,500-foot train. The Kansas City Garden Railway Society, established in 2002, now has about 100 members, Roberts said. Members have built several model displays for public viewing around the metropolitan area and are involved in a variety of projects.

One of the society’s most prominent projects is The Train Station, also located in the Great Plains Mall, in a vacant store with 8,500 square feet of floor space at 20194 W. 151st St. Society members built the display in 2009, using more than 2,500 feet of tracks with as many as 11 trains running at the same time.

“Many of our members have more trains and railroad equipment than they have room for at home so when the mall offered us a vacant store to house it in exchange for building the big layout it was a win-win deal for everyone, especially families who spend hours watching the trains free,” Roberts said.

The Train Station is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Special events during the National Convention included tours of 20 of the society’s garden scale railroad displays in the Greater Kansas City area.

“Each railroad layout is an art form in its self,” Roberts said. “No two are the same and the attention to detail is astounding.”

Exhibition Hall at the Trade Center is filled with manufacturers and dealers catering to the interests of hobbyists, along with clinics on how to build a model garden railroad.

The local society was founded by four families, including Roberts and his wife, Sheryl, Paola residents who had a mutual interest in garden railroads. Roberts has been in love with model railroads since he was a toddler. His garden railroad has 1,500 feet of track.

How many trains does he have? “Oh, about 70 locomotives and 300 or so cars,” he said.

“Garden” is part of the society’s name because most of the model railroads are set outdoors in gardens with tunnels, miniature buildings, switchyards, train stations, people and cars built to scale with bridges and trestles over fish ponds and hundreds of feet of track winding through flowers and small shrubs.

* For more information about the Kansas City Garden Railway go to

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