Jefferson County & Southern Model Railroad Club

Model Train Lovers

Well, as luck would have it, I discovered another “find” – another nugget in the hills of our beloved rural village of Festus, Missouri. The monthly meeting of the Writer’s Society of Jefferson County coincided with Twin City (Festus and Crystal City) Days, a big spectacular that covers three days of activities.

Festus Main Street Twin City Days 2011

As I exited the Festus Library where our meeting had been held, I saw a small sign pointing to the shop next door, “Train Display”. My interest piqued, I went inside.

An attraction at the fair was a model train display presented by the Jefferson County & Southern Model Railroad Club. The group formed thirty years ago and still has some original members. Most of the men can spout United States train history since the first track was laid on the North American continent. Many of them also know European and English train history.

Did you know during the Civil War, General Price made an attack on the Southern end of a Missouri track to stop iron ore used for forging cannon and gun shot from reaching the North? And sandstone was milled at the Horine Sand Mine? Stupid me. I thought all sand comes from beaches and deserts.

One fascinating tidbit of knowledge I found interesting is Russia made the gauge of their tracks a different size so they could not be infiltrated by German trains – an exceedingly wise and elementary tactic. Oh, for the good old days when national security solutions were so simple!

Tanker Cars

Standard size between rails in the United States is four feet eight and a half inches. Model trains are a one to eighty-seven ratio. In the late 1800s, narrow gauge was used in mountainous areas – two to three feet between rails. In constructing railroad lines in these areas, narrow track was easier to transport to difficult terrain and worked well in limited space and on steeper grades. Ore – silver, gold and tin – was transported in small cars on these tracks.

Passenger trains had names like The Eagle for the Missouri Pacific Line; The Meteor for the Frisco Line; and The 20th Century Limited for the New York Central Line. The heyday of passenger trains was the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, before air travel really “took off” (no pun intended).

Public monies built airports and airlines were not charged for the air miles they traveled. They only had to pay landing fees. In contrast, railroads were not public-supported and had to pay property taxes on every inch of track. Attempting to survive, a money-saving tactic was instituted whereby train companies removed double tracks in order to pay less in property taxes, but it was a futile measure and they lost out in the end. As more people chose to travel by air, railroad ridership disappeared. Since railroads could no longer financially compete they became predominantly bulk carriers.

Model railroaders serve their community by presenting these facts in a fun environment, outside of the school classroom. The opportunity to view these small trains opens the door to education. For example, the variety of town scenery and business enterprise is amazing. Exceptional detail was given to a coal-fired electrical plant, an ore car releasing its load into a dump truck, a sand mill, and a rock quarry.

Dump Truck Ready to Receive Load

Stone Quarry












One of the very best town scenes was a depiction at a lake (realistically complete with a few tossed away rubber tires) of police, average citizens in a boat and scuba divers searching for a drowning victim. As a writer, my mind conjured up a tale around the scene. This was no accident. Soon it would be determined to be a homicide. Let’s see, which one of the “innocent” bystanders would turn out to be the murderer?

Mysterious Goings-On

Using old photographs, club members recreate train cars using stencils and are precise down to the letter. From an original picture, circa 1920s, one of the men built a duplicate depot building of the Festus passenger and freight line that once stood on North Fifth Street between Frisco and North Mill Streets.

Re-created Iron Mountain Car

Old Festus Station (grey building)













The club members say this hobby satisfies various aspects of their personalities and opens up the creative side of their brains. Each man has his own area of expertise – from producing the background art of hills, trees, rocks and sky in the form of painting backdrops to creating three-dimensional mountains, tunnels, crossover tracks and more.

These men and their love for accurately presenting the history of railroading teach the development of travel and commerce across the last two hundred plus years. They have held displays in schools and need more show dates to spread not only the history of railroading, but the charm of it all.

They may present at Christmastime for the City of Festus, but that is not yet confirmed. If you have an organization with a large room for their display, please book them for an event. You would not only be providing entertainment for your clientele, but very interesting education and facts, as well; a retrospective on an era dependent upon dedicated men to be kept alive.

And who amongst us doesn’t just plain enjoy seeing trains meander through towns and mountains and tunnels? Who isn’t mesmerized by the headlight of an engine as it emerges from the dark end of a tunnel? Who doesn’t imagine themselves inside one of those cars and hear that plaintive wail of the whistle and wish we were traveling away to a new adventure?

You can still catch a ride on the Durango & Silverton Railroad in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and experience the magic and mystery of old-time train travel. Or you could include this display as part of an upcoming event of your own and capture the magic right here at home. Give these guys a shout and acquaint yourself with wistful imaginations as you watch a caboose disappear down the track, heading to . . . where?


NOTICE:       Saturday, February 11, 2012 a model train display will be held at:  Fox Senior High School, 751 Jeffco Boulevard, Arnold, Missouri 63010

Contact info to book for your event:  Bob Miller, President   636-931-5732


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. abbyplambeck
    Sep 24, 2011 @ 22:20:36

    Annette, you really did your research here! Love all the little facts, like the different sizes of Russian and German tracks. Did you learn it from the train club members, or do your own research too? So fun to learn something new. Thank you!


    • annettecrey
      Sep 24, 2011 @ 22:45:32

      I learned that fact from the train people. That is why I promote these common events in towns – I am trying to get people to delve beneath the surface – when they go to an event, get involved, ask questions, make it a fuller experience. It seems I did research, but I benefited from the research these men had already done. And that is my point! Learn from others. Thanks for the input. Annette


      • abbyplambeck
        Sep 26, 2011 @ 22:01:47

        Annette, regarding adding your links to your emails, you should be able to create a “signature” in your email program. Once you set it up, it’s automatically added to all outgoing mail. The one you’re seeing is the email account with my website through, which is sorely outdated, but on my to-do list! I see that you have a Yahoo address for our classwork. If you want to add the signature in Yahoo, click on Options, then Mail Options at the top of your inbox page, then click on Signature on the left side of the page. Good luck!

      • annettecrey
        Sep 29, 2011 @ 03:07:19

        Thanks, Abby, I have successfully incorporated this. =)

  2. Bob Miller
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 10:43:22

    Annette I want to thank you on behalf of the train club members. You wrote a great article and we appreciate your support. We keep you updated on future shows, and hope to have a website up shortly.

    Bob Miller


    • annettecrey
      Sep 25, 2011 @ 21:52:43

      Bob, It was great fun – People are loving learning about your club and are appreciating the educational content. Get that website up there! Let me know when it’s LIVE! =)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s