By LOIS KINDLE
Train enthusiasts of all ages are invited to join members of the Sun City Center Model Railroad Club for its annual Easter Open House April 15. It’s an opportunity for kids to run a train and be awarded a junior engineer certificate and other goodies.
The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon in the clubroom at the Sun City Center Central Campus, 915 North Course Lane, in the building behind the lawn bowling greens.
“We do this for several reasons,” said Dan Donegan, a member since 1998 and the club’s current secretary/treasurer. “It’s our contribution to the community to entertain the grandkids while they’re visiting over the holiday. We teach them about train safety and show them how much fun it is to run trains. And it’s a way for us to promote the hobby.”
Kids who run a train receive a certificate signed by club President Dan Donoghue, hat and a Junior Conductor Guidebook by Amtrak, plus a coloring book on train safety and a bookmark/ruler from Operation Lifesaver.
Even folks who’ve been there before will find something new.
“We’ve added many new sound effects, including a church with bells and music,” Donegan said.
Open house visitors will be treated to the sights and sounds of an HO-scale village depicted in detail in the club’s handmade diorama. It features the Ruby Resort, which sits on the banks of Silver Springs and the remains of an old mica mine. Up to 10 Sun City Central trains at one time pass through the scenic village, where tiny residents go about their daily activities at their homes, businesses and recreational sites. There’s even a red-light district on the wrong side of the tracks on the outskirts of town.
The club was formed in 1989 through a partnership of Sun City Center and Kings Point model train enthusiasts, but they split into separate groups not long after. Its diorama was comprised initially of individually constructed modules that were bolted together for shows wherever members could find space.
The club found shared space for awhile with the Stained Glass Club and moved to its current clubroom in 2003. The diorama was placed there permanently and has been tweaked ever since.
In addition to its HO-scale railroad of 15 scale miles of track, the club has initiated the T-Track Project, which will introduce an N-scale, portable layout. Participating members will design and build their own 1.2-square-foot modules to be linked together and placed in any sequence.
“By fall, we hope to have operational N-scale modules that we can take to the Florida Room, Community Association events and invitationals,” Donegan said.
Now in its 28th year, the Sun City Center Model Railroad Club meets Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. Members gather to talk about trains, operate them and work on the diorama. Visitors are welcome on Fridays. Open houses are hosted during Sun City Center Community Association events like the Holiday Walk and Fun Fest and around the holidays of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Membership is $35 per year, and there is a one-time initiation fee of $50. For more information, visit http://sccmrrc.org.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Sun City Center Model Railroad Club Open House
WHERE: 915 North Course Lane, Sun City Center
WHEN: April 15, 9 a.m. to noon