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Wichita Toy Train Club and Museum opens in new home

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, at 6:46 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, at 7:43 a.m.

Zachariah Hubl squatted and tugged down on his striped conductor’s hat.

The last time he remembers running a train on an S-gauge layout, he was about four feet tall.

“I had to reach my hand over here like this,” the 14-year-old said, reaching for the switchboard.

Red-haired Matthew Davis wiggled his nose to adjust his glasses. He held his hand waist high.

“You were shorter,” the 13-year-old chimed in. “You were like this tall.”

Whatever Hubl’s height, the Wichita teens agreed: It’s been a long time since the trains had a permanent home.

The Wichita Toy Train Club and Museum is continuing its grand opening celebration from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at its new location, 130 S. Laura in Wichita. Five years ago, the club lost its lease at Twins Lake Shopping Mall, leaving members to store their collections.

But earlier this year, an anonymous club member bought the metal building on Laura so the trains could whistle again.

“It feels fantastic. We’re just beaming from ear to ear,” said Shari Shockey, club board member and train enthusiast. She builds trains and layouts — the tracks, buildings and scenery — with her husband, Mike.

“We’ve been working diligently every weekend, coming down here and just basically doing the painting and the cleaning and putting in display cases.”

The museum features interactive toy trains in several scales, stationary displays and hands-on wooden train sets for child’s play. There’s also a track for visitors to race their own O-, S- and HO-gauge trains and the extensive 1800s-era Taggart layout, named for donor Bill Taggart who built the intricately detailed western town.

Many of the models operate using controls, positioned at just the right height for children.

“This allows the kids to just walk up and push,” Shockey said, pressing a button that lit up a tiny fire station as a train raced by.

Admission is $5 for ages 12 and older; children under 12 are free. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays on the second and fourth weekends of the month.

Annual club memberships are also available for $36 per person or $48 per family. Forms are available at www.wttcinc.org and at the museum.

Saturday afternoon, children and teens joined older men and women who grinned as they explained the intricacies of model trains to visitors on the museum’s opening day. A few older men tugged engines and boxcars from cardboard packages.

The room sang with whistles and chug-chugs.

Matthew Davis, whose love of trains started at age 2, gestured over a miniaturized landscape filled with tiny cattle grazing on green pastures and old farm buildings. A black and red engine tugged yellow box cars around and around the track.

Each tiny figure was painted with tiny details.

Yes, Davis agreed. It’s a complicated process to build a toy train layout.

Planning and designing is his favorite part.

“It’s just the right amount of math, science and how everything lays out,” Davis said.

He glanced back at the train and smiled.

“It’s just nice for it not to be in storage.”

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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