Train talk

K&I Model Railroad Club
seeks members to expand its base

Railroad Museum a reality for local collectors

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

BUCKNER, Ky. (April 2008) – Bob Widman has been collecting trains since he was a kid. One reason he joined the Kentucky and Indiana Model Railroad Club was to learn the different aspects of model railroading and to expand his interest now that he has more time to devote to it.

Bob Widman

Photo by Helen McKinney

Bob Widman stands with a
railroad model he constructed.

“Joining a club is the best way to learn,” said Widman, 69. Members have different qualities that they bring to the club; some create layout scenery, others install electrical hookup, while others are adept at re-creating the gravel along railroad tracks known as ballasting.
Club members recently shared their knowledge of trains with others through an open house in mid-March at the former firehouse in Buckner. Trains were up and chugging along their miniature tracks during this two-day open house, where the Division 8 National Model Railroad Association held their monthly meeting.
“We want to promote the hobby through an open membership,” said Kentucky and Indiana Model Railroad Club president Gary Metcalf. The club meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the former firehouse at 3713 W. Hwy. 146 in Buckner.
Widman is not particular in favoring one model train over another. “I don’t go with a favorite like some do,” he said. He has collected steam locomotives, diesel fueled engines, CSX and Norfolk Southern models and Shays logging trains.
“We have fun and there is a lot of camaraderie among members,” said Metcalf. Metcalf received his first Lionel O27 train when he was 4 years old. He now runs trains up to 80 cars in length.
The club began in 1993 and currently has 24 members between Louisville and La Grange. Due to the dedication of its members, the club has won several awards for their H.O. scale models and layout construction.
Members come from a wide range of different backgrounds, Metcalf said. Some are United Parcel Service pilots, doctors, electricians and a few have even worked for the railroad.
After completing his basic training in the U.S. Army, Widman became a railroad engineer for a time, getting a first-hand feel for trains. Upon retiring as an electrician he “wanted something to do,” he said.
Widman is also chairman of the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation Inc. The foundation meets monthly at the Little Blue House in La Grange, and the all-volunteer board is “working toward getting a railroad museum in the La Grange area,” said Widman.
Plans for a 1,000-square-foot museum include a train layout, an area collection of memorabilia from the past and present, gift shop and library.
“Our goal is to build a large building for tourism and to educate the public on the past and future of railroading.”
Also wanting to preserve the history of the areas’ railroads and trains, the Kentucky and Indiana Model Railroad Club will continue to meet at the former firehouse in Buckner until it is torn down for the reconstruction of Hwy. 393.
When the state bought the building, Widman met with the Fire Board, which agreed to let the foundation use the building. In turn, the foundation invited the Kentucky and Indiana Model Railroad Club to use the building until its demolition, with both groups contributing to the cost of utilities.
“By then we hope to have a museum built,” said Widman.
For the past six months, Widman has been working hard toward establishing a location in La Grange for a railroad museum. “We prefer La Grange because trains run through it,” he said.
Widman has spoken to councilwoman Lucy Ricketts and La Grange Mayor Elsie Carter, both of whom have agreed to be on the museum board. Carter said that such a museum “would be important for the city of La Grange because we are a railroad town.”
The board is looking at several possible museum sites. “We would like to have it in the city,” said Carter. “It would be a good addition and a tourist attraction.” Possible funding sources are currently being sought.
Members of The Kentucky and Indiana Model Railroad Club participate in different events, work on layouts and run trains throughout the year.

• For more information, call Gary Metcalf at (502) 239-0546 or visit: www.trainweb.org/knimrr.

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