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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Clintonville Station Revisited

Valley Model Railroad Association, you have a new fan. My family stopped by the group's open house this evening after dinner, as a surprise treat. It was, according to my seven-year old, "the best thing ever." We had attended the open house once before, but it's been a year or two, so it took a few guesses for him to determine where we might be going. It wasn't long before "Is it a train station?" led him to "Oh, is it the one with the model trains inside?" Bingo. We had one happy boy. 

The HO layout of the Valley Model Railroaders fills most of South Elgin's Clintonville Station. Built in 1902, most of the building once held power generating equipment for the area's electrical railroad lines. In the 1950s, the machinery moved out and the club moved in. They've been there ever since, creating an expansive world of track and scenery.

My kids spent at least a happy half-hour staring at the rolling stock ambling through miniature towns, countrysides, and rail yards. True to their personalities, different aspects of the layout intrigued each of my children. The oldest looked for his favorite engines and absorbed the logistics of moving the trains. Miss Middle Child focused on the diorama aspects of the display: details such as curtains in house windows and the path sunbathers must have taken to the beach. The truck-crazy toddler loved seeing any train move past him, but he couldn't understand why the diggers and dumpers weren't actively moving, too. Just when we parents thought we would be able to call it a night and head home, an offer of driving a train was presented. Bedtime had to wait; our young engineer had a train to run. His first experience operating DCC (with sound and lights!) was an unqualified success. Upon arriving home, he brought over a stretch of his Lego train track and began explaining to me why a track can't be too steep and showing me what grade would be best. So, thank you to the Valley Model Railroaders for sharing your hobby with a curious little boy and giving him new ideas for engineering at home. 

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