From left, Liam Chenier, Morgan Chenier, Tom Mower and Mike Taylor of the Quesnel Model Railway Club stand by one of their layouts in the Maple Park Mall. Club members will start dismantling the layouts this week, as they have to move out of the mall and find a new space. Lindsay Chung photo

Quesnel Model Railway Club looking for a new home

Saturday, Aug. 10 was the club’s last public display at the Maple Park Mall

After being set up in the Maple Park Mall for 11 years, the Quesnel Model Railway Club is looking for a new home.

Club members have volunteered to open their space at the mall to the public every Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. to show people their model railway layouts, explain how the trains work, let people try them and share their passion and knowledge through videos, books and conversations.

“We’ve provided a really fun service here for everybody,” club member Tom Mower said during the club’s final Saturday at the mall, Aug. 10.

Mower says the club’s guestbook features entries from all over the world, including India, South Africa, Europe and Australia, and the train layouts have been very popular with everyone from school teachers who bring their classes to the mall to retired railway workers and autistic children. Their big Christmas display has also been very popular over the years, and they held a very popular scavenger hunt where kids had to find different things in the layout, he noted.

Club member Mike Taylor says they probably have 50 people every Saturday, and that number increases around Christmas time.

“We’ve had kids cry when they leave here,” he noted.

Mower says they get a lot of people who come see them every month.

“We like to share what we have,” he said. “We’re all very proud of our work.”

“All our members have some blood and sweat in here,” agreed Taylor.

The club’s only income is the donations people who visit them at the mall leave, and Mower says they get about $30 a month or so, depending on the foot traffic.

“People have been very good at it, and we’d like to thank them for their donations and their support,” he said.

Mower believes the railway club’s Saturday public events have been so popular because everyone loves trans.

“Trains are romantic,” added Taylor. “I think a lot of kids’ first memories are seeing trains — it’s the first big thing they see.”

The Quesnel club’s layout features a variety of different scenes, such as a sawmill, an accident scene and an Emerald Lake scene, which is their newest one. There are scenes of Quesnel in 1914 and Barkerville in 1859, which club member Keith Watkin built from scratch. Stephanie Davis, whose father was a founding member, built a farm, and there is an open pit coal mine with domestic and export coal cars, as well as a grain terminal and an oil refinery. They have HO and O scale railways, and they were in the process of building an N scale railway this year.

“There are different levels, dollar-wise,” explained Mower. “There are entry-level cars and trains or high-cost, high-end, high-detail trains that are all electronic with a sound system in them and everything.”

“That’s the fun part,” added Taylor. “That was our next step, to get interactive.”

Taylor says they are always working at their railway layouts to make them better or more interesting.

“Here at the club, we constantly work on the layout,” he said. “We call it a living model.”

The Quesnel Model Railway Club, which currently has 11 members, recently received notice they have to vacate the Maple Park Mall, and the club is looking for a new home. The space at the mall is about 700 square feet, and they are hoping for something similar.

If anyone knows of a space that is available for the Quesnel Model Railway Club, they can contact Mower at 250-249-5605.

Mower says they are not a registered society yet, but they will work on establishing one soon so they can be eligible for grants.

Taking the layout down, storing it and moving it all is a big job for the club.

“Originally, this was built in what we call a modular setup, with two-foot to four-foot pieces that bolted together, and we could move it,” said Mower. “We set it up as modular here, and it became pretty permanent. We have to pretty well tear it down. We will keep as much as we can. We can take it apart in sections, but to put it back together again will be near impossible.”

Until they find a new home where they can share their trains and scenes with the public, Taylor says they will meet at members’ houses.

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