Inside, outside model trains change places

My first experience with outdoor model railroading was at just about this time of year, but back in 1940. I was 4 years old. After breakfast, I headed for my sandbox only to find that all the toys I had usually left there were all gone. Maybe some neighborhood kids had borrowed them.

A bit later, I was crawling around on the floor of our guest closet and found the boxes that contained the engine and cars that were part of my Christmas electric train layout that had encircled our Christmas tree. I opened the boxes, took out the engine and cars and promptly took them out to my sandbox.

I had a lot of fun with my new sandbox toys, pretending there was a railroad track in the sand. Of course, the novelty wore off and I left them there overnight — for several nights. Dad found the gritty, rusty engine and cars. After carefully cleaning and oiling the engine, he hooked it up to the transformer. There was a groaning noise, a thin wisp of smoke, and a smell of what I now know must have been ozone. It was ruined. That ended outdoor model railroading for me — until just a few days ago.

Sometimes, a little serendipity happens in your life. I was attempting to call a friend. Since there was no answer, I left a message. It turned out that I had dialed incorrectly, and the party where I left the message responded anyway. Mike, a friend of my nephew, was the respondent. He told me, that along with my nephew, he was interested in model railroading, and that he was a member of the Riverside Railroad Club.

Just across the Women’s Veterans Bridge on Market Street across from Reeves Apartments was once the site of the A&P supermarket, then the Packard automobile dealer named Pritchard Sims, then REM Electronics, and then SCOPE of Trumbull County. There were probably other businesses (a bowling alley?) or organizations on that site, but I don’t recall them.

In 2002, a little outside model railroad was built as part of the activities at SCOPE. As you must know, SCOPE is an organization serving senior citizens.

This little railroad layout, called Riverside Railroad, had 1,500 feet of outdoor track, a waterfall, a pond, tunnels and bridges. The engines and cars ran on a G gauge track — G standing for garden. The scale is 1:32, so a foot long model railroad car would be 32 feet long in reality.

Last year, the building and property, which included SCOPE and the Riverside Railroad, were sold. In order to continue SCOPE, facilities were offered at the YWCA on North Park Avenue. The little Riverside Railroad was offered indoor space in the Y’s basement so that the 15 members could continue their activities — only indoors.

So the outside railroad came indoors. However, bringing the model railroad indoors wasn’t as disastrous as what happened to my little electric train so many years ago.

Plans are afoot to replicate the Courthouse Square as it appeared in about 1965, but with a lot of leeway to include other historic features that may not have there at that time. They will also replicate the Packard mansion (the old Elks’ lodge). It once stood between the Presbyterian Church and the YMCA before it was torn down to make room for the Y’s expansion.

I’ve been scrounging around my house to see if I can find photos and information about Warren’s past with a little bit of success. I hope it helped.

Anyone over 12 years old can join this little club of devoted model railroaders and the dues are reasonable.

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