ANGOLA, IND. (WPTA21)-They crisscrossed America for a hundred years, belching steam and smoke and building the country as they went. Only a handful of steam locomotives still run mostly on tourist excursions. But their legend lives on in one spot out in 21 country.
“It’s like any other hobby,” says model railroader Bruce Nelson. “It just depends on how fancy you want to get and how much you want to spend.”
The pufferbellies are running in Angola, Indiana at headquarters for Tri-state Station, a model railroad club struggling to stay on track. Over the years Tri-state members have hand built a miniature world of railroad towns, businesses..an incredible countryside of hills and mountains, trees, rivers and rocks. An elaborate playground for some overgrown kids.
“It’s mostly older people,” says Nelson, “but we do have a few younger members and even some teenagers.”
Tri-state has layouts from small HO scale trains up to the big ‘G’ scale with all sorts of miniature extras that a little imagination can make real. The walls are lined with hundreds of engines and cars some worth a thousand bucks or more, most of the them donated to the club. Members refurbish the donations and sell them to raise money. And therein lies the rub. Money and membership. Twenty percent of Tri-states budget comes from dues, the rest has to be raised and as members get older that gets tougher.
“As we die off if we can’t replace membership then it’s eventually gonna just die,” says Nelson, a member of the model railroading club. “And we are actively seeking new members. We would like very much to get new people in here to run the place mainly just to keep it going.
Video games and other diversions are more popular with kids today than model trains. But if they just dropped by this place, got up close and personal with this kid sized world interest might return. In the meantime these aging boys will keep building layouts, rebuilding engines and cars and hoping others will rediscover what they already know, that this hobby can be rewarding and a lot of fun. The question is will the younger generation catch on before this train leaves the station.