Lansing Model Railroad Club Article

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Lansing Model Railroad Club Article

Unread postby jrgerber » Wed Aug 29, 2018 7:54 am

Here is an article from the Lansing State Journal.

https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/sto ... 050098002/

DELTA TWP. - The 128-year-old train depot sitting on an acre of land along Old Lansing Road, a block away from the nearest set of railroad tracks, seems out of place.

But the Grand Trunk Western Millet Depot, built in the late 1800s and which functioned as a train station through the 1950s, found its way there by necessity.

The Lansing Model Railroad Club saved it nearly 60 years ago.

Today, the approximately 1,000-square-foot wooden-frame depot, painted red, is part headquarters, part model train attraction.

A metal railroad crossing, with working lights, sits next to the depot's front porch, donated by a club member.

On Friday morning, from the newly-paved parking lot at the club's property, Eaton Rapids resident Tim Childs pointed to two green wooden doors that once opened on the exterior of the building.

“This was a freight and baggage door,” he said.

And the bay window off the front?

“It’s where the station operator had his desk,” said Childs, who is the club's president. “From the bay window he could see in both directors down the tracks. There would have been a big signal standing out here with a couple arms on it that would go up and down. Those were for signaling the trains. It was a very small, rural station.”

When it was operational about a block away from where it now sits the depot housed passengers too, who would wait in a room at the front entrance to buy tickets and board trains.

These days it’s an altogether different set up inside — one that shocks and delights most guests when they visit.

Members moved it a blockto their property on Old Lansing Road in Delta Township in the 1960s.

“It’s amazing the building survived the move,” Childs said. “Railroads didn’t build buildings in the 1800s like we think of houses and other buildings being built today. They basically graded a spot on the ground, laid down a bunch of railroad ties, built a box around it, nailed some tongue and groove flooring to it and called it good.”

Club members dug out a basement on their property and placed the depot on top.

The interior has been renovated a few times over the years, and a 400-square-foot addition was added to the back of the building in 2009.

Over the years the club has been careful not to “impact the visual characteristics of the building,” Childs said. From Old Lansing Road it looks just like it did more than 120 years ago.

But inside nearly the entire ground floor of the two-story depot is filled with a massive, elaborate electric model railroad track. It winds throughout the building. Members started building it in 1980, and they have continually added on to it for 40 years.

The interior walls of the depot surrounding the layout are painted a light, sky blue and are dotted with hand-painted clouds.

More than 500 feet of railroad tracks travel through miniature towns erected along them. They're filled with buildings, tiny billboards, buses, cars and trees. Model trains travel through miniature hillsides covered with green grass, over plastic bridges constructed by hand and through tunnels.

Much of the model has been “scratch built,” piece by piece, Childs said.

“This is all one railroad,” he said. “The main line is somewhere in the order of 500 feet, plus or minus, but if you start counting yards and the branch lines…I don’t even have any idea. It’s changed over time.”

Area residents and model train fans have opportunities throughout the year to visit the depot. They can climb stairs to the second floor and stand along a railing overlooking the detailed track below while club members run trains on it.

The club’s 45 members live throughout the Lansing area. They maintain the model, the depot, and MA Tower, which once sat at the railroad crossing located at Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing, near what once was Clara’s Restaurant. The club rescued the tower in the fall of 2016, and members have since restored its exterior.

There are lofty goals for the future of the building, and the property.

Club Treasurer Ron St. Laurent of Okemos said eventually those plans include adding another addition to the back of the depot, moving the model train track out of the depot’s original 600 square feet and restoring that space to what it would have looked like a century ago.

t will take years, and lots of money to accomplish though, he said.

"Jokingly I renamed phase II ‘Project 2100,’” St. Laurent said. “It may not happen in our lifetime.”

The club’s annual budget is modest, St. Laurent said. About $5,000 covers property taxes, utility costs and upkeep.

There are three open houses a year at the property, in February and during June’s “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.” The fall open house is set for Sept. 30.

The club also hosts a train show at Michigan State University's Pavilion in East Lansing in November. That event draws about 4,000 spectators each year, St. Laurent said.

ew visitors at the depot are usually surprised by the historic building's existence.

“It’s a little gem and a lot of people don’t know it’s there,” St. Laurent said.

And while Childs said it isn’t a necessity to house a model railroad club in a historic depot, the pairing usually brings a smile to most faces and makes for a unique experience.

“It’s not important but, boy is it cool,” he said.

St. Laurent agreed.

“We’re a model railroad club, but we’re also maintaining relevant pieces of history here.”
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Re: Lansing Model Railroad Club Article

Unread postby ~Z~ » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:50 am

Pat C aka CAPT CAPS - did you realize this model railroad club is located next door to the B&I Bar that we ate at in Lansing?
I can only imagine the club members stop by the B&I often enough.
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Re: Lansing Model Railroad Club Article

Unread postby AARR » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:56 am

I belong to the Capital Area Railway Society. IIRC our founders were members of the LMRC but something happened and they left to start their own club.
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Re: Lansing Model Railroad Club Article

Unread postby Wabash1070 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:26 pm

I'm also a Capital Area Railway Society Member, CARS was never truly part of LMRC, the CARS founders wanted to be a portable layout so a couple of our founding fathers left LMRC and well the rest is history
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