The clickety-clack of metal wheels rolling along steel track. The hum of electric engines pulling freight cars down a valley. Building mountains and rivers and cities. Bright lights and operating accessories. Reliving childhood dreams.
Recreating the romance of the rails in miniature is what drives the members of the Canyon Mt. N-gineers model railroad club.
Each member grew up with model trains as a child, and each has either chosen to relive their childhood, or had never really left it in the first place.
Everett King is the superintendent of the Canyon Mt. N-gineers.
The club is hosting the Great Eastern Oregon Train Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Grant County Fairgrounds.
On the morning of Sept. 6, the club will host an operating session at the Train Barn on King's HO modular railroad. Guests will be given a chance to recreate the functions of an operating railroad, by delivering freight to industries on the railroad and retrieving loaded and empty cars.
The train festival will be the first event of its kind in Eastern Oregon. Most similar events are held in much larger cities, and then only on an occasional basis. The club hopes the festival will become an annual event, attracting people from all over the Pacific Northwest.
"Word is getting out about our event," King said. "People from Kennewick are saying they will be coming to see us, people from Boise say they are coming. Hopefully, we'll meet our goal of 500 people."
King received his first model train, a Marx O-gauge set, when he was 8 years old, when he still believed in Santa Claus. It was a tinplate train, made out of sheet metal, a type of construction common until injection-plastic trains were made starting in the early 1950s.
"I ran the wheels off that set, pretty much," King said. "When I was 12, I got a Lionel. My folks tried to tell me I was too old for it, but I said 'No, I really want one.' "
He became interested in scale model trains at about the same time.
"I went over to a friend's house and saw my first Kadee couplers (an Oregon-based manufacturer, known for its realistic HO couplers) on his HO scale railroad. After that, I started buying a few HO cars. They came with sprung trucks. That was my first introduction to HO (in 1958)," King said.
He started building an N scale railroad in 2000.
HO scale trains are 1/87 as large as the prototype, and HO is the most common scale; approximately 65 percent of all modelers are in HO.
N scale is about half as large, at 1/160 scale; and about 25 percent of all modelers use this scale. O gauge trains, like Lionel and Marx, are 1/48 scale, and command about 10 percent of the model train market.
King's current project is a large N scale railroad, being built in a 20x44-foot room at the Train Barn in Canyon City. It is a representation of the Union Pacific Railroad between Hinkle Yard (near Hermiston) and Nampa, Idaho. About half of the bench mark and track work is up, and trains are running.
Construction is stalled, while the club is busy building an N scale modular railroad.
Modular railroads, designed to be portable, are popular because it allows model railroaders, who may not have room in their homes for a permanent railroad, to build a portion of a railroad and operate it with other modelers.
King formed the Canyon Mt. N-gineers club in 2000, about the same time he started construction on his N scale empire. At first, he had a difficult time recruiting members, but in the summer of 2002, two new members, who were as gung-ho about trains as King, joined the club, and the project took off. Six months later, Pete Teague came to the Train Barn and became hooked.
"I stopped and talked to Pete about his die-cast cars (at the Dairy Queen) and told him about the railroad I was building. Eventually, I got him to come down here, and he decided to put (a model railroad) right in the Dairy Queen."
Teague's Dairy Queen railroad is based on the Oregon & Northwestern Railroad, which hauled logs and lumber from Seneca to Hines, with a connection with the Union Pacific until 1984. It is an N scale railroad, to get the most railroad in the limited space available.
Teague became involved in the hobby when he received a Lionel O-27 train set as a kid. He obtained an HO set later on, then drifted away.
"At that point in time, everything was Lionel, and it was hard to get," Teague said.
His interest continued off and on through the years. He purchased three different HO sets, setting them up in the living room to operate. His interest peaked about two years ago, when he bought the Dairy Queen.
"It appears that most everyone who sees a model railroad is interested. Something draws men, women, and children to model railroads," Teague said.
There are six members in the club. Most model in N scale, although there is one HO holdout who has no intention of switching his modeling to the smaller scale.
The Canyon Mt. N-gineers meet weekly at the Train Barn in Canyon City: from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Monday and from 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call King at 575-0714 or Patrick Bentz at 575-4247.