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Trains, Tracks, Tunnels and Trestles! Club Members Practice at Stanstead's Model Train Museum

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--December 15, 2011.

"We've got about twenty new members since we set up all the models here," Granite Central president Robert Sheldon says of the Club des modélistes ferroviaires de l'Estrie, the group that has set up its eighteen huge "maquettes" at the granite and model train museum in downtown Stanstead. In all, the club now has thirty members from all over the Townships.

larger_trains.4.jpgConnected together like one gigantic 3-D jigsaw puzzle, the eighteen maquettes are a miniature world unto themselves. Scale model trains run along scale model tracks, through scale villages and scale countryside populated by scale people, cars, trucks and animals. It's quite something to see -- especially when the trains are running and the sets are all lit up.

Setting up the miniatures for the permanent display took virtually thousands of hours of painstaking volunteer labour on the part of the club's members. Fortunately these people are all avid hobbyists and this is just what they love doing.

Back in the spring when the big models were being transported to Stanstead from their former location in Sherbrooke, club member Robert Descoteaux said, "We've had to disconnect and then reconnect over 900 electrical wires that run through and under the different sections, linking them together and making sure that the trains and lights function," Descoteaux said. "But we're very happy and proud of the results."

Fellow club member Gérald Saint-Pierre said at that time that, all told, the miniature world had taken the club about fifteen years to build. "Countless hours," he said.

Joined together, as they are now, the maquettes span an area measuring seven by eleven metres wide. This takes up most of the space in the former conference hall at Granite Central.

larger_trains.2.jpgMost of the trains on display here are in 1-87 scale (HO-gauge). A few are in the scale of 1-160 (N-gauge), which is quite a bit smaller. Robert Sheldon's Lionel model train collection is in the 1-43 scale (O-gauge). These have been on display at the museum since last year.

Recently, a dozen or so club members were on hand to practice running the trains. Claude Lecours, who works at Granite Central and who is a member of the club himself, explained that the new members especially needed practice. "But I think they learned quite a bit -- and it was lots of fun," he said.

"Running a model train is just like running a real train," Lecours explained. "To make a delivery from one town to another, you have to know exactly what you are doing. There are waybills, and each train has a dispatcher, a conductor and two brakemen."

larger_trains.3.jpgAfter all of their hard work moving, setting up and rewiring the maquettes at Granite Central last spring, club members took a bit of a breather this past summer, Lecours said. "But beginning in October, they have been coming down for regular sessions on weekends. And people love seeing these models working."

Granite Central is located at 14 Notre-Dame Boulevard in Stanstead. Currently opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those hours may change in the new year.

Admission to Granite Central is $6.00 to visit the model train exhibition and $6.00 for the granite museum. Admission to both exhibits is $10.00. For visitors who return with friends or relatives, admission is charged only for the first-timers. All entrance fees goes to support Granite Central. For more information, call (819) 876-5576.