Model trains draw a crowd to Detroit Lakes' Washington Square Mall
The Red River Model Train Show was held Saturday and Sunday, April 30-May 1, at Detroit Lakes' Washington Square Mall, drawing 'fairly steady' crowds, according to organizers. It was the 35th year for the show in the Detroit Lakes mall, which was started by the late Jack Norby, a longtime member of the club.
DETROIT LAKES — It's a lifelong passion for some, building model trains and crafting the tracks, bridges, tunnels and landscapes over which they travel.
"It's a really great family hobby," says Alan Dahlman of the Red River Module Club, which held its 35th annual model train show at Detroit Lakes' Washington Square Mall this past weekend.
"It's gender friendly, and we take junior members as long as their parents are in the club too," he added.
In fact, his own son Jimmy and grandson Jack are both members of the club as well, Dahlman said. "We're based out of Fargo, but we have members from all over," he added. "Anyone can join, as long as you have an interest in model trains. We're always looking for members."
The club meets once a month, year-round, to talk trains; from December through April, they set up at the Richland County Museum in Wahpeton — where Dahlman is from — where they do maintenance on the modular tracks and landscape that the tiny trains run on.
"We're kind of unique," Dahlman said. "The club owns the layout, but each individual member owns their own trains."
Because of that, the type of trains that run on their setup also varies widely, he added. "We get people that run historical trains, and some that run steam engines, and then we have members that like the more modern stuff. It's the total gamut ... whatever you like to run."
The only requirement is that the trains be the right size to run on an HO scale layout; HO scale is about 1/87 scale to a life size train, with tracks, scenery and accessories that fit the same scale.
After the Detroit Lakes show, which kicked off their 2022 schedule, the Red River Module Club will hold four more shows this year: At the Lake Region Threshers Show in Dalton, Minn., set for Sept. 9-11; the Spud Valley Flea Market at Bonanzaville in West Fargo, set for October; the weekend before Thanksgiving, at the Fargo Public Library; and Dec. 1 at the Richland County Historical Museum, which is a special event called "Trains, Treats and More."
The shows are all free and open to the public; Dahlman said on Sunday that this weekend's show had pretty solid crowds throughout. "We're really pleased with the turnout," he added.
One constant at the shows is the large numbers of younger visitors. "We get a lot of kids," Dahlman said.
Two of those kids at the mall this weekend were Rainy and Emberlie Warden, ages 8 and 6 respectively, who attended the show with their grandmother, Carolyn.
"Rainy was excited to see people inside the buildings (on the model landscape), and Emberlie liked watching the trains come through the tunnel," their grandmother said. The two girls were a bit more tongue-tied when asked what part of the show they liked best. Both responded, "I don't know."
The show celebrated its 35th year at the Washington Square Mall this weekend; Dahlman said the late Jack Norby, a longtime member of the club, was responsible for bringing the show to Detroit Lakes — which is why it was informally dubbed the "Jack Norby memorial show," he added.