A group of model railroaders in east Bend will and open their playground again to the public this weekend. The open house is a chance to get an up-close look at a hobby that pays homage to an iconic form of transportation.
The Eastern Cascades Model Railroad Club’s 26th annual open house showcases both the HO-scale electric trains you’ve seen around people’s Christmas Trees and larger trains that are not full-size, but still big enough to ride.
The crew of small-scale engineers has created a big world devoted to trains. It’s 20 acres that was deeded to the group by a fan of the rails.
“And he wanted it to stay a model railroad,” said Brian Benjamin, president of the Eastern Cascades Model Railroad Club.
And they’ve kept that deal.
“We’ll we’ve actually gone a little further than he originally planned,” Brian said.
There’s two parts to this story. Let’s start with the big, 1/8th scale trains from the Central Oregon Area Live Steamers.
A passion for railroading’s past — steam engines — burns bright for Tim Parks.
“Steam is more of a dying hobby and it’s fun to keep it alive.” said Tim.
Albeit, on a smaller scale.
“This is a Winton 280 live steam locomotive in 7 1/2-inch gauge fired by propane,” Tim shows us as he towers over his train.
This weekend’s open house is a chance for the public to see what the club has done over the years and where visitors can hop aboard.
“You get about a 15-minute ride.” Brian said. They keep it to about 10 mph.
The track is about three miles, which is a lot bigger than when it started.
“We started out in the late 90s with just a small loop of track that was about 600 feet and over the years we’ve added to it,” EMCRR member Bruce Blanford.
Sara Land was bitten by the train bug after bring her son to the event.
“I didn’t know anything about 1/8″ scale trains prior to being part of the open house,” Sara said. Now she has her own Southern Pacific F7. She calls it the Black Widow.
“It’s very relaxing to come out here. I have a stressful job. I work as a nurse at the hospital so this is my way to de-stress,” said Sara.
The club estimates it will give 1,500 – 2,000 rides over the two-day open house and share their love for all things that go klickitey-klack down the tracks.
You can also head inside to see the smaller world of HO trains on 1,900 feet of track.
“It’s fun for all of us to operate because we’re all kids at heart in here anyway,” said Ray Taylor, ECMRR treasurer.
The track layout for the HO trains has familiar Central Oregon sights, such as a lumber mill. The track has evolved since the mid-1990s.
An assist from technology helps keep things from going off the rails.
“We can be running three or four or five trains at the same time. That all show up over here on a computer screen,” Ray said.
Although, mishaps do still happen.
“Yeah, they derail on occasion. Not supposed to admit that, but it does happen. Haven’t seen any hit the floor yet,” Ray said.
The open house runs from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 21520 Modoc Lane. The event is free, but donations are encouraged to keep the event rolling down the tracks.