Saturday, May 23, 2009

"All Aboard" This Cool Homage to Model Railroads

One of the things I didn't mention from the Colorado trip last month was an interesting little side excursion that was only a couple of blocks from our hotel: The Greeley Freight Station Museum, which opens this weekend. (If you're wondering why I know it's cool when it's just now opening, they opened up at certain times to school groups such as ourselves for a sneak preview. That's also why I saved this post until now.)

I'm not sure that my iPhone pictures can adequately speak the proverbial thousand words, so I'll let a snippet of this article from The Coloradoan set up the story:
The main feature of the new railroad museum will be its spectacular model railroad, which is the featured centerpiece of the new museum.

"Throw away all those ideas about the railroad in your neighbor's basement, or that garage full of trains down the street, or that 4x8 sheet of plywood sitting out in the storage shed,'' said David Trussell, museum manager of the HO scale, Oregon, California and Eastern Railway. "This is something you've never, ever seen before."

The layout is a single track mainline model railroad running from Lakeview, Ore., to Klamath Falls, Ore., with a branchline running to Coos Bay, Ore., and another heading up into the Central Oregon woods. The mainline alone is 1,400 feet, which scales out at more than 21 miles long. When sidings, yards and industrial spurs are added, the total amount of track pushes 80 scale miles.

"If an engineer isn't held up by the schedule, it'll take him (or her) well over an hour to get his train over this railroad," Trussell said.

The layout's dominant feature is its spectacular scenery. There are more than two dozen trestles and bridges, all hand built specifically for a particular location in this miniature world. More than 25,000 handmade trees are in place. Model railroad aficionados who have visited the layout have marveled at its museum-quality modeling.
Trust me--this place lives up to the hype. As I said, my pictures won't do it justice, but they might give you an idea of the scale of the layout:

This is only a small portion of the layout. And the caboose in the back is real; some of the volunteers--the museum has no paid staffers--even sleep there after long nights of work.

Another section of the layout. Note the details in the terrain, trees, and the long bridge in the background.

If you look at the above picture in a certain way, you'd swear it was real.

The towns through which the trains pass are exquisitely detailed.

Again, my pictures can't do justice to this place. Suffice it to say, it's a model railroader's nirvana (my dad would love it!), and it's not just pretty to look at; it actually works:
Besides being a museum-quality layout, the OC&E was built to operate exactly like the prototype it mimics. To that end, the layout has 10 computer systems and is fully signaled with a functioning prototypical Centralize Train Control dispatcher's board.
If I recall correctly, there are 12 trains running at a time, which has to be amazing; I was pretty much blown away by the single train we got to see during the preview.

So if you're into model railroading (or just marveling at miniature art as a backdrop for stuff that moves) and your travels find you in the Greeley area (it's only about an hour north of Denver), the Greeley Freight Station Museum is something to definitely check out. (Hours and contact info are available at the museum's site.)

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