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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.

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Duane Durr, center, of the Red River Module Club runs the remote control on one of the trains running the tracks on the model train setup at the Washington Square Mall on Sunday, May 1, 2022. The club held its 35th annual Red River Model Train Show — known to club members as the Jack Norby Memorial Show — at the mall this past weekend.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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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.

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Members of the Red River Module Club were all smiles as they celebrated their 35th Annual Model Train Show at Washington Square Mall this past weekend, April 30-May 1, 2022.

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.

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The Red River Model Train Show, held this past Saturday and Sunday, April 30-May 1, 2022 at the Washington Square Mall in Detroit Lakes, drew lots of kids — and adults — throughout the weekend. It was the 35th year for the show in Detroit Lakes.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"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."

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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.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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