Model railroad group shares passion for hobby

·5 min read

Dec. 5—Young and old, the curious onlookers began gathering around the collection of small railroad cars, houses and scenery at the Kalispell Center Mall before Vance Carolin even had the chance to finish setting up last Saturday.

It didn't take long for the area near the Christmas tree in front of the old Herberger's store to transform into a bustling miniature railway, thanks to efforts of the Carolin and the Flathead HO module model railroad group.

Since receiving his first model train as a 5-year-old in the 1950s, Carolin has enjoyed honing the skills that have kept him building, designing and sharing his model trains with others throughout his life.

"I like the electronics portion of model trains as well as the building and designing aspects of the hobby," Carolin said. "Model railroading provides a common ground to bring people of different backgrounds together to enjoy the romance of trains. It's a combination of modeling, electronics, woodworking and more. It's something that really encompasses a lot of different hobbies. Getting to run the trains is just icing on the cake."

The skills Carolin used to build models as a child would help him later in life as he went on to work on fighter jets and radar systems in the Air Force, a career he says was, without a doubt, influenced by his model building background.

"I think hobbies help prepare young people for the real world and allow them to have the skills and confidence to go into fields they wouldn't otherwise go into," he said.

When the chance came for Carolin to share his hobby with others, he and fellow model builder Joel Goldberg leapt at the chance to help found Flathead's module model railroad group just over two years ago.

Unlike many model railroad groups that come together to build a large, static model railroad, module railroad groups build smaller and more portable sections, or modules, that can be easily moved and set up basically anywhere.

"The advantage of modules is that you can go anywhere you want to go. You aren't stuck in a basement somewhere. Modules make it a mobile hobby," Carolin explained. "This way is much better than having some big club layout in some building that ends up getting sold. Then, you have to cut up everything you have built and either move it or get rid of it. Also, if you put a lot of time and effort into that kind of club and then you decide to leave the club, you have to leave all of your work behind."

THE GROUP of around 10 hobbyists began meeting monthly at the former Gateway West Mall in Kalispell, keeping the get togethers informal.

"We are very loosely a club. We don't have any officers and we don't charge any dues. We don't have a lot of things, but we have a lot less trouble because of that," Carolin said. "When everyone owns their own piece of the layout, they can take their stuff and go home whenever they want."

When the mall began asking for $500 a year to cover insurance costs for the meetings, the group found itself looking for a new home.

The group currently meets at the Mountain View Mennonite Church in Creston on the second Saturday of each month while the search for a new home continues, but Carolin says there have been some new leads in that search.

"We've heard the Senior Center might be interested in hosting us, but nothing has been confirmed yet," he explained.

Even without a permanent home, the group will continue to bring the joy of model railroading to others with events like the one last weekend.

"We had to pay insurance to be here, but we decided it would be worth it to help more people learn about how fun this hobby can be," Carolin said. "Hopefully just being here will help us find a few new members for our group."

For more information about the Flathead HO RR Module Group, contact Vance Carolin at 406-755-9412 or by email at vancetara@montanasky.com or contact Joel Goldberg at 248-514-3207 or by email at joelgoldb@yahoo.com.

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 406-758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.

photo

Bill Luce and his 1-year-old grandson, Phoenix WeberLuce, enjoy the model railroad module display at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

The modelers of the Flathead MO RR Module Group added some local touches to their trains, including this Plum Creek Lumber car. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

The Flathead MO RR Module Group brought the joy of model railroading to the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Wearing his conductor's hat, young Luke Sorensen takes in the model railroad display at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

The model builders of the Flathead HO RR Module Group had several models with regional motifs on display, including this Great Northern Railway caboose. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

The Flathead MO RR Module Group brought the joy of model railroading to the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

The Flathead MO RR Module Group brought the joy of model railroading to the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Young and old alike were drawn to the model railroad display at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Young and old alike were drawn to the model railroad display at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Flathead HO RR Module Group member Dennis Gray places his train cars on the track during the group's demonstration at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Flathead HO RR Module Group member Dennis Gray keeps an eye on his locomotive during the group's demonstration at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Flathead HO RR Module Group member Dennis Gray keeps an eye on his locomotive during the group's demonstration at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

photo

Six-year-old Jase Darron takes in the model railroad display at the Kalispell Center Mall Saturday, November 27. (Jeremy Weber/Daily Inter Lake)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting