Train exhibit takes visitors through historic Warren

Model train exhibitions are nothing new at the National Packard Museum, but this year’s trains will run on a track that winds through scenery that’s both old and new.

Members of the Western Reserve Modular Railroad Club have created a three-rail, O-gauge layout filled with some of Warren’s historic buildings.

Rich Ulrich of Austintown, who is president of the club, said past train displays at the museum have featured generic layouts, and the club members wanted to do something different.

It was an concept embraced by Mary Ann Porinchak, executive director of the museum.

“It was their idea to make it historic structures, and I just jumped on that,” she said. “It makes the history of Warren a reality for people and gives them a bird’s eye view for what the city looked like. So many of the buildings have changed.”

Club members created a similar layout using Youngstown landmarks for the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, and Ulrich said he knew a Warren layout would be well-received based on the reaction they got in Youngstown.

“We realized what we should be interested in is education, and education means trying to be historically accurate,” Ulrich said. “Four major national railroads went through here.”

Some of the landmarks recreated for the layout include Republic Steel, Courthouse Square and the Trumbull County Courthouse, Saratoga Restaurant, Howard’s Clothes, Packard Music Hall and the National Packard Museum.

The club first started researching the project two years ago, and some of the individual pieces took several months.

“Some of these require quite a bit of time and expertise,” Ulrich said.

John Ciccarelli of Girard, who is secretary / treasurer of the club, built the Trumbull County Courthouse model. Ulrich gave him photographs taken from every angle of the massive building, and Ciccarelli started recreating its distinctive shape using foam core board. He said the scale of the building isn’t exact, but the detail is remarkable.

”I had to go with the space I had,” Ciccarelli said. “I had maybe 30 inches in which to work. I had to selectively compress, artistic license – whatever you want to call it – to create the overall feel.”

”Sentimental Journey” – Modular Railroad & Toy Exhibit will be on display through Dec. 29 at the National Packard Museum, 1899 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Warren. It was supposed to running by Sept. 9, but a couple of the buildings and some other cosmetic touches still need to be finished. Work should be completed within the next couple of weeks, and until then visitors can see the work in progress.

It will be accompanied by a display of World War II-era toys that also should be completed later this month.