A groundbreaking event is scheduled for 1 p.m.today (Saturday) in the southwestern Michigan community of Parchment, where the public is invited to tour the headquarters and participate in an operating session of the group's permanent model railroad display.
The headquarters, tucked between two farmhouses, is easy to overlook, but the Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the society hopes to boost its profile and membership.
"We're here to support model railroading and the history of railroads because it really made our country," said Lorraine Fedorchak, the club secretary. "It's fun, but it also has a lot of meaning."
The facility was built in 1971 to serve as its permanent home after the society's founding in the 1950s. Since 1999, a full-sized retired red caboose from the Boyne City, Gaylord & Alpena Railroad Co. has greeted members and visitors to the property.
The refurbished caboose sits on a short line of track, surrounded by functional crossing lights. An HO-scale model that's 20 by 40 feet is inside the building.
The permanent display is known as the Cooper Park & Eastern Railroad, a fictional railroad set in the 1960s. The layout includes 212 feet of track and more than six trains can run at the same time. The towns in the display include Cooper Heights, Silver Creek, Leroy, Franklin and Chambersburg.
"It's called Chambersburg because it's right next to the chamber, the bathroom," said Russ Barr, 70, of Portage. "Chambersburg is a small yard in itself because it has its own switch engine. It's my favorite town because it's the one I operate during operating sessions.
"We make up these stories about everything because nothing is really real."