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Don’t stop this train…

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Lake Minnetonka Shores’ model railroad club fosters creativity and connection

By Emma Lohman, community editor, Laker Pioneer News
Republished with permission

LMS_train-club.jpgResidents and volunteers at Lake Minnetonka Shores (LMS), a Presbyterian Homes and Services senior living community located in Spring Park, Minn., are moving full steam ahead on a model railroad project to engage residents and community members alike.

The LMS Model Railroad Club formed in fall of 2022 with the goal of providing a therapeutic, educational and entertaining activity that all residents at LMS could participate in. LMS management supported the idea by giving the club a dedicated room that they could use to build and operate the model railroad.

All LMS residents are invited to participate in the project, though there are a handful of club members who work on the railroad day-to-day and document their process and plans for the future.

The first thing that the club did upon forming was to build tables in the LMS wood shop for the model railroad to sit on.

“We spent hours trying to figure out how high to make tables for people with wheelchairs,” said Jerry Sicard, a member of the model railroad club steering committee. The club purchased the track for the model railroad, but so far all the buildings and train cars have been donated. The club also intends to engage the LMS art club to help with the scenery. Ideally, the club would like to have scenes from different seasons that can be swapped in and out.

While the model railroad is not intended to be a replica of the surrounding communities or capture a specific era, the club is interested in including some local landmarks into the design, such as the Minnetonka Drive-In, Tonka Toys, and the Mound Depot.

“As of right now, we’re still working on the wiring,” said Sicard. “The buildings will light up, there will be streetlights and crossing signs with lights. It’s going to be very detailed.”

The club has also tapped several talented community members to serve as consultants for the project, including Peter Lowry and Dave Hamilton.

“I’ve been passionate about model railroads since I was eight years old,” said Lowry, who lives in Deephaven, Minn. “I’ve built one in Slovakia and three in England in addition to the one at Lake Minnetonka Shores.”

As part of his volunteer work, Lowry plans to hold a class for the residents to learn how to make miniature trees and rocks.

Dave Hamilton, who lives in Plymouth, has also provided advice to the club. He earned nine different certifications in various elements of railroad modeling to earn the title of Master Model Railroader from the National Model Railroad Association and runs more than a dozen trains on the layout that he has in his basement.

In addition to building the model railroad, the club takes field trips as well. In the past, club members visited the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum in St. Paul, Minn., and on Oct. 28 several members took a trip to the Minnesota Transportation Museum (MTM), a non-profit organization that collects, preserves, interprets and operates a historic railroad and equipment. MTM is located at the historic Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul, and the building was originally a steam engine maintenance facility for The Great Northern Railroad.

So far, the club has been self-funded, but building kits and engines are not cheap. For that reason, the club is seeking monetary donations, which can be dropped off at or mailed to LMS.

“A kit could be anywhere from $15 to $100 and an engine costs several hundred dollars,” said Sicard. The club also has aspirations to eventually expand beyond LMS.

“We will add plexiglass shielding once the model railroad is done and we hope to be able to bring in school classes to look at it and run the trains,” said Sicard.

“Done” is a loose term with regard to the project, as once the model railroad is built there will still be plenty of opportunities to continue changing it and redesigning it.

“There’s a saying that a model railroad is always complete, but never finished,” said Lowry. Sicard added, “We’re going to be doing this to pass on to the next generation.”

Read the story as published on November 9, 2023, in the Laker Pioneer Community News

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