Dreams built at model train show

Nathan Liewicki
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Jacob Radwanski, 13, makes an adjustment to his Lego model train display at the Western Development Museum Saturday. Radwanski, whose love of Lego-constructed, model trains spawned from a visit to the Moose Jaw Thunder Creek Model Train Show five years ago, had his own exhibit at the annual show.

Young and old flock to the WDM for all kinds of model trains

Jacob Radwanski wants to one day build his own little Moose Jaw.

Aspiring to be an architect, the 13-year-old said he spends an average of 10 hours every week altering his Lego-constructed city that is circled by a train – also built entirely out of Lego.

More than 22,000 pieces comprise the model train exhibit Radwanski built and had on display at the Western Development Museum (WDM) on Saturday and Sunday.

“This is the restaurant and in the kitchen there are spoons, glasses and a rolling pin,” Radwanski said as he pointed to the inside of the restaurant’s main floor.

In addition to the restaurant, Radwanski pointed out city hall, the police station, pet store, Grand Emporium, museum, apartment complex and – of course – the train that continued to circle the city.

While it might sound like Jacob is a big Lego fan, and he is, his fascination with Lego and Lego-constructed trains began five years ago when he visited the WDM for the annual Thunder Creek Model Train Show and saw a massive model train exhibit constructed entirely out of Lego.

“I started with only a few buildings and trains and it grew from there,” said Radwanski. “I’d like to have two or three trains going at once.”

And that massive model train exhibit he saw five years ago that inspired him to become an architect?

It was just a few feet away from Radwanski’s own exhibit – built using more than 100,000 Lego pieces.

Although the mind of a 13-year-old model train enthusiast is full of ideas, traditional minds like that of Tom Cowan, 70, recall the days of setting up model trains in a spare room in his house.

To this day the Shaunavon resident still constructs model railroads.

On Saturday, however, he was attempting to downsize his collection, which he values at $15,000 or $16,000, by selling a few train cars, magazines and hats.

“My dad worked on the railway, so trains were always part of my life,” Cowan told the Times-Herald Saturday. “It was all part of my culture.”

Today, however, Cowan believes kids are so adamant about having electronic devices that they are rarely into trains. But he noted the Model Train Show is one of the ways that captivates the attention of young children, as well as their parents.

“Lots of little kids are excited when they come here,” he said.

That was clear from the number of vehicles parked on Diefenbaker Drive. The WDM was jam-packed – both days.

“What we try to do is take model railroading to the public and we bring in people to showcase what they can do and what model railroading can do,” said Barry Johnson, a former president of the Thunder Creek Model Railroad Club, which meets weekly.

The number of vehicles parked outside the WDM was a clear indication the public wanted to see all of the model railroads for the 19th straight year, and 16th at the WDM.

At least 1,500 people checked out the Model Train Show on Saturday and Sunday.

According to Johnson, there were 26 or 27 exhibitors and seven or eight vendors at the WDM for the show.

“A lot of people are model railroaders at heart and they like to come and see the skills of the railroaders and look at how things have changed from year to year,” said Johnson.

“Model railroading goes right back to the early 1900s. It’s a hobby that’s evolved … but is still very popular.”

That popularity is well-known by Jackie Hall, the program and education officer for the WDM. She said it’s as simple as “people really like trains.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Western Development Museum, Times-Herald, Model Railroad Club

Geographic location: Lego, Thunder Creek, Shaunavon

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  • Carole Naylor
    March 24, 2014 - 15:35

    Mr Cowan should feel proud to know that his model train display ,five years ago, made such an impression on an eight year old who was so inspired that he became a model train enthusiast himself. What a great feeling it must be know that you are a role model.