Georgians share their love of model trains at Hampton train depot

Paul Hutcheson, of Warner Robins, Ga., adjusts platforms for a collection of train modules to be on display this weekend.

Paul Hutcheson, of Warner Robins, Ga., adjusts platforms for a collection of train modules to be on display this weekend.

As a child growing up in Fairfield, Ala., Ed Lusk played with toy trains.

He recalled that when he traveled around the city, he crossed ten sets of railroad tracks routinely to get to friends and relatives in the small steel mill city, just outside of Birmingham.

As a 7-year-old, he was intrigued by the lock-step motion of the mighty locomotive engines as they hauled cars of raw materials through town. Now, 77, he continues to be fascinated by trains, and he demonstrates his passion through model-train collecting.

“It’s something that you can control and make it what you want it to be,” said Lusk, president of the Middle Georgia Model Railroad Club, based in Warner Robins, Ga.

Lusk, a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force, was never a train conductor. He was a pilot. Similarly, he said, none of the 30 members in the club of model train collectors has ever had careers directly linked to train engineering. They just love trains.

Members of the group devote much of their free time to their model-train-collecting hobby, fitting in several model train exhibits during the year throughout Georgia.

Lusk said the group displays trains of different sizes, from the popular Lionel model trains to the Thomas the Tank Engine model trains.

The club plans to exhibit at Rock Ranch, in The Rock, Ga., on Oct. 1, and Oct. 8.

This weekend, the group will put several model trains on display at the Hampton Train Depot, at 17 East Main Street in historic downtown Hampton.

The display will be free and open to the public, from 10 a.m., until 6 p.m., Saturday, and from noon, until 5 p.m., Sunday.

“Our trains represent part of the history of the United States,” said Paul Hutcheson, the club’s secretary. “There’s a lot of history wrapped up in trains.”

Hutcheson pointed to European railways as an example of the continued improved use of trains as a mode of transportation from city to city, even from one country to the next.

“My country needs modern rail transportation to get a lot of cars off the highway,” said Lusk.

Bob Leavitt, a Middle Georgia Model Railroad Club member, has traveled the world watching trains and filming them in different urban and rural settings. He boasts a model collection of 657 locomotives and 1,637 rail cars.

“A carport got turned into a hobby room,” said Leavitt, as he pieced together a platform for a model train display.

The model train exhibit is expected to turnout several casual viewers and fans this weekend.

“In the past, several hundred people visited the display put on by the Middle Georgia Model Railroad Club,” said Candy Franklin, Hampton’s Main Street Director. “After last year’s event, it was decided to expand it to two days,” Franklin said. “With all the work involved in setting it up, a two-day event was feasible. We are looking forward to many more visitors this year.”

The Depot Museum also will be open on Saturday and Sunday. Franklin said the museum’s current main display is from Bill Betsill and includes more than 150 pressing irons as well as trivets, ironing boards and information.

The museum has a main display that is changed bi-monthly. It features a 19th Century safe, numerous pictures, a cane-back wheelchair, and trophies from as far back as the 1920s.

The director said the museum will be open every Wednesday, from 1 p.m., to 4:30 p.m., or appointments may be made by calling (770) 946-4306. To learn more about the Middle Georgia Model Railroad Club, visit www.mgmrc.org.