Model trains delight Harvey House Museum visitors

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Walk into the Harvey House Museum this month and it will be difficult for your inner child to want to leave.

Photo courtesy of Janis Marston: Belen Model Railroad Club member Duane Schmitz adjusts one of several model trains on display at the Harvey House Museum.

Once you step beyond the historic threshold, you become a Gulliver-like visitor into a miniature world, thanks to the Belen Model Railroad Club’s annual Model Train Show, which runs through April 27.

There are hundreds of intricately detailed engines and rail cars. Some are black and silver; others, such as the model Rail Runner, are more colorful. Some trains haul 40 or more cars as they circle the 20-foot by 40-foot layout that fills the museum’s main room.

Tracks take the HO-gauge trains past tiny towns, a racetrack, an airport, grain silos, circus rides and towering red rocks with bears and snakes looking in. It’s easy to get pulled into this miniature transportation wonderland and almost forget about the real trains, 87 times as big as the ones inside.

But the real whistles blow and the old foundation of the Harvey House shakes as the real trains pass by, as they have for almost 150 years.

The fascination continues. Someone’s cell phone rings and the spell breaks. One visitor commented that the club members must all be 10-year-olds at heart. An older man smiles.

“Growing old is mandatory,” he says. “Being an adult is optional.”

The model railroad club, formed in 1995, has about 35 members. It moved into the back section of the museum in 2000, which allowed members to set up several permanent displays.

This show lets members set up their own personal trains and special scenery along with many favorites that belong to the club.

The museum, at 104 N. First St., is open from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free.

Museum hours will be extended Saturday, April 20-21, for the model train vendor exhibit and swap meet that draws model train enthusiasts from across the state. Hours for that event are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Food and drinks will be on sale during the vendor exhibit weekend.