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By Janet Ortegon Sheboygan Press staff June 28, 2012
Z-scale enthusiasts, get ready. N, HO, S, O and G scale? Check.
The newly renamed Sheboygan Railroad Museum will open its doors for the first time in more than a year this weekend to show off its extensive new railroad layouts in six scales and give fellow enthusiasts a look at what they've been working on.
The open house will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 30-July 1.
The Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers has been working on its building, which used to be called the Sheboygan Railroad Lodge, at 1001 N. 10th St., for several years.
They started with new floors and basic remodeling, a facelift on the outside of the building (the colors are Wisconsin Central maroon and Burlington Northern cream, for two railroads that operate in Wisconsin) and a new distribution of the space inside, which was once the Moose Lodge.
Last year they closed up again, this time to re-create new model train layouts. In place of the enormous, 15-year-old HO scale model that once was the centerpiece of their display, they now have a variety of models set up in all different scales to appeal to everyone, said Diana Ratz, a member of the SSSMRE
And some of the layouts will be left unenclosed, so people can see how they work.
"The HO-scale has an 8-foot helix," Ratz said. "It's two trains running in opposite directions over four levels. It's tall enough so the train goes around the circle up and down in a 8-foot diameter. There is nothing like this anywhere."
The idea, she said, is to give people a better view of what goes into a model train layout.
"People like to see the guts," she said. "They like to see how things are made. The big permanent layout … people come in and watch the trains go around and they go out and say, 'OK, now what?' This way … they'll leave part of it open so people can actually see the trains go up and down the helix. There's a lot of interest in 'How do you do that?'"
Dick Pool, a board member in the organization and an engineer, devised the helix and has been hard at work for months putting that and the rest of the layouts together.
"People will be able to see trains wind up that helix," Pool said. "That was an engineering feat."
Board member Dick Pool tests the helix with a pair of engines in preparation for the Museum's Open House.
Three years ago, the organization was in such a slump that members — there were only a few — considered selling the building and disbanding. That's when Ratz and her husband, Jay, who own J&D's Whistle Stop railroad hobby shop, got involved, bringing Diana's marketing know-how with them.
Since then the group has been on an upswing, adding members and finding new ways to spread the word about their organization and the fun of model railroading.
"We are much better shape than we were three, four years ago," Pool said. "Because of renewed interest, because of Diana and her persistence. She helped us see new ways of getting the word out and she had some contacts that helped a lot."
The group now numbers about 20 and the open house will be one of its major fundraisers. Members also hold brat frys a few times a year at Miesfeld's and Piggly Wiggly, Ratz said, but the open house — where donations are gratefully accepted as brats, burgers, soda and water will be sold — is the biggest one.
Ice Cream shop tooting it's own horn about it's train
By Janet Ortegon Sheboygan Press staff June 29, 2011
If there is an image of the perfect summer evening in a small town, a big ice cream cone at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor might be it.
Throw in a model railroad and the distant sound of children playing at the beach and now you're in summertime nirvana.
That is exactly what Ryan Moeller had in mind when he planned his new business, an ice cream shop called South Pier Parlor on Sheboygan's South Pier.
Striving for a very old-timey feel, he decided what he really needed — in addition to top-notch treats — was a model railroad in his shop. The problem was, he didn't know anything about train sets. So he turned to the experts at the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers for help.
Children enjoy an ice cream soda at the counter of the South Pier Parlor
"I proposed the idea and asked 'Hey can you help me out?'" said Moeller. "They were more than willing to help me out and I think they did a good job. It looks wonderful. Kids come in and the first thing they do is notice it going around the perimeter. They can't keep their eyes off it."
It's exactly the kind of thing the organization loves to do, said society president Leo Schneider.
"Part of our constitution is to educate people where needed," Schneider said. "Somebody comes to us for advice, we're more than willing to offer it. Anything that promotes trains, to us, is great. Because that's what we do. We knew it wouldn't take a long time commitment to accomplish, and he came and asked us for help and sure, we can do that."
After conferring with the railroad society members during a regular meeting, Moeller purchased all the materials his advisers told him he would need.
They chose a garden scale-sized train, which is big enough to be clearly visible from its perch 9 feet above the floor. Reminiscent of the steam locomotives common in the late 1880s, the model has a steam engine, a coal tender, three freight cars and a passenger car.
"It's like an old-time train where they ran freight and passengers behind same engine," Schneider said.
The SSSMRE crew poses in front of the train after completing the installation
|For two nights, a few members of the
railroad society swarmed the not-yet-open ice cream parlor to install
the train and get it wired up and working.
"I think it looks great," Schneider said. "I had kind of envisioned just a plain shelf with maybe shelf brackets or something underneath to hold it up. Actually, it's a 10-inch oak board, stained, with crown molding under it. It looks like piece of furniture. It's very ornate. I think it looks excellent."
In addition to donating a little financial support to the organization, Moeller is going to hang up a plaque to thank the railroad society for their help and expertise.
"I think the emphasis on the train was for the families and kids to experience," Moeller said. "That's what we kind of want to make this — more (than) an ice cream place, but kind of an experience."
The Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers is continuing to work on its museum, at 1001 N. 10th St. They've spent the past year repairing flooring and working on creating new model train layouts in a variety of scales.
The South Pier Parlor, 434 South Pier Drive, is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
By Janet Ortegon Sheboygan Press staff July 26, 2010
Scale model railroad group has a bright future in area
Russ and Terri Voege have a monster train set in their basement. In fact, it's three separate train sets, big ones, on homemade tables and intricately connected with bridges.
They started the collection for their 5-year-old son, Damien, and it became a family hobby. And that makes them exactly the kind of people the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers is looking for.
The Voeges are new members of the railroad group. They're also part of the reason that the organization, which a year ago had put its building up for sale and was considering how, or if, it could continue, now has a bright future.
"We were losing members, morale was down a bit, and then the city decided we were no longer a tax-exempt organization and no amount of arguing with them would change their minds," said society member Dick Pool, 65. "We knew we could win if we fought in court because we had all the evidence, but that takes time and money — two things we didn't have."
Instead, they made the agonizing decision to tear down their enormous HO-scale layout, sell the building and walk away.
"It was 15 years worth of work and a lot of tears," Pool said.
Then, some astonishing things happened.
First, Diana and Jay Ratz got involved. The couple was looking for a place to move their home-based model-train sales business and briefly considered the society's railroad lodge. The building wasn't right for their business, but the organization was right for them.
"We didn't know that much about them," said Ratz, 54, who moved with her husband to Sheboygan from Plymouth in 2003. "We went to a meeting, met them, saw what was going on. Our hearts just broke for them, ripping down 15 years of work and dedication to this layout. You could see in their faces, they just looked so defeated. It was horrible. Horrible, horrible, horrible to watch."
Luckily for everyone, Ratz has a background in marketing and promotions, and she came up with a few ideas.
"We started talking to them," she said. "They had their minds set, they were going to have to sell the building because of the taxes the city was imposing. (We told them) 'No, wait a minute, you guys, listen to me. We can do this."
So, the Society members gave it a shot.
They took down their centerpiece layout, cleaned out the display room and set up a smaller modular train layout, and then hosted an open house in January, relying on Ratz's talent for promotion to bring people in. And she ended up with four pages of names of people interested in the society.
"Diana is a marketing genius," Pool said. "She said, 'This is what you've gotta do,' and sure enough, it worked. We are actively recruiting new members and getting them, and they're quality people who have been looking for a place and never knew we existed."
The Ratz's model train and hobby shop, J&D's Whistle Stop, 730 Erie Ave., is now an adjunct headquarters for the society, and is often the first place people hear about the railroad society.
For example, Terri Voege, 26, was long overdue for a train set of her own when she went to J&D's to get accessories for her son.
"I never personally had a train set when I was a kid," she said. "My brothers had a train set, and I occasionally played with it behind their backs."
So when Damion started to show an interest, both Terri Voege and her husband jumped on it.
"I told my wife right off the bat, if the kid don't play with it anymore, I'll stick into it," said Russ, 32. "This is something I can do, the wife can do, the kid can do. I always liked the model trains."
The railroad enthusiasts took a large portable layout to the National Train Show in Milwaukee earlier this month, and the group is now preparing for an open house at its lodge, 1001 N. 10th St., Aug. 14-15, its biggest fundraiser.
After that, they're going to replace the floor, improve the insulation, paint and generally spruce up and refurbish the building in time for Trainfest, the largest model railroad show in the country, which will be Nov. 13-14 at State Fair Park in Milwaukee.
That means the society will create three new layouts for its newly redesigned display space, each a different scale to appeal to a wider base of enthusiasts. They'll also create museum space for the roughly $5 million worth of historic railroad artifacts that are currently in storage, Pool said.
And that elaborate 15-year-old layout? It's scattered among about 400 boxes, never to be duplicated, Pool said. Instead, its pieces will become part of the new layouts, and of the society's new life.
"Things are looking up," Pool said. "I was pretty disheartened myself because I put in most of the work on the old layout. It was a labor of love and I hated to see it go. But we're looking at a new rebirth."
|A year after it looked like the
Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers would have to shut
down its home at 1001 N. 10th St., the group appears to be chugging
along nicely and picking up steam. The for sale sign is still in front
of the building, but dozens of people showed up Saturday at the group's
second open house of the year to see the group's portable display at
They included Chris and Shelby Matter and their six-year-old son, Gavin, watching the HO-scale trains make their way through miniature mountain passes, industrial areas and even a downtown street where a circus was taking place.
"I like watching them go around," Gavin said.
The Matters are in the process of building their own two-tier, 12-by-12 foot train table in their Sheboygan home. They like to come to shows like the one held by the model railroaders to get ideas for their project.
Both Chris and Shelby said they grew up with trains and they're passing that passion on to their son.
"It's a nice pastime for a young kid," Shelby said.
It's people like the Matters that lead club President Leo Schneider, 60, to believe that better days are just around the bend.
Last year the group was faced with having to pay property taxes on the Lodge for the first time. Combined with declining membership, there didn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, Schneider said.
"At the time, we felt the only course of action open to us was to sell the building," he said. "Obviously, that has not happened thanks to the economy."
Since then, the group dismantled its permanent display in the Lodge and resurrected a temporary display that was built in the 1980s but had laid in storage for several years.
The group improved on the portable display and showed it off locally for the first time at an open house in January. The 26-by-34-foot display, which can be expanded to 34-by-38 feet, was showcased again on Saturday.
As a result, the group has picked up some new members and, coupled with a cash donation late last year, they're looking at possibly keeping the building
"That doesn't mean we won't consider selling the building if a good offer comes along," Schneider said.
The building is listed for $74,900. Its assessed value is $51,200 and has a 2009 tax liability of $1,260.79, half of which has been paid, according to the Sheboygan County Treasurer's office.
Until last year, the non-profit group had not paid tax on the property since it was purchased in 1993. That tax-exempt status was rescinded last year, however, by the city because a review of state statutes showed there is no tax exemption provided for model railroading organizations.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back, to say the least," Schneider said. "We're still not happy about it. But it's hard to fight city hall."
With its portable display scheduled to be showcased at other shows later this year in Green Bay and Milwaukee, Schneider said the group is looking at renovating the interior of the Lodge and expanding its museum exhibits and library.
"We're down, but we're not gone," he said.
More information on the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers can be found online at www.sssmre.org.
Reach Dan Benson at firstname.lastname@example.org and 920-453-5125.
Published January 29, 2010
Seldom-seen traveling layout will be on display at model railroad society's open houses
Last model train leaves station
Posted July 24, 2008
Open House gets modelers on track
Posted October 18, 2007
September 27, 2007
The Sheboygan Society of Model Railroad Engineers Ltd. will open its Railroad Lodge at 1001 N. 10th St. in Sheboygan to the public for free from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 as part of the National Model Railroad Association fall meet being held in Sheboygan Falls this year.
The National Model Railroad Association Winnebagoland Division meet at the Sheboygan Falls Municipal Auditorium, 375 Buffalo St., will also be open to the public on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission to the Falls show is $5 per person.
At the Railroad Lodge, the train displays include a tongue-in-cheek scene featuring a meat-packing company along the railroad — and many HO-scale protesters gathered outside, complete with HO-scale protest signs such as "Ban the Burger" and "Celebrate Soy," created by member Dan Lindow. Other scenery includes floor-to-ceiling Rocky Mountains, a West Virginia coal mine and mining town and EdgeTable power plant. Visitors also will see the computer control station. Much of the train traffic is run by computer with chips in each individual locomotive, with the whole layout tracked on a PC screen by a dispatcher.
October 15, 2006
October 12, 2006
"It was a shorter walk if you followed the tracks, about a mile," he explained.
The bonus: "Occasionally, the section techs — guys repairing the tracks — they would give me a ride on the section cars."
His infatuation with railways led to Thompson studying train lines in and around Wisconsin as well as taking up model railroading as a hobby.
"You pay attention to the real railroads and what's going on," said Thompson, who works for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. "You acquire info and contacts over the years."
While serving as president of the Soo Line Railroad Historical Society, Thompson developed friendships with many individuals in the railroading community.
"In that position, I had to make contacts with railroads to set up banquets, annual meetings and conventions for 1,200," he said.
While in that position, he also had the opportunity of a lifetime. He rode in the cab of a locomotive on the same tracks he used to walk as a boy, right past his old home.
"It was a different perspective to pass by," he said.
His involvement in the Soo Line Historical Society gave Thompson additional knowledge of the rail system.
Plymouth residents and businesses learned that if they had a question about the trains, Thompson was the man to call.
Two years ago, his knowledge of the rail system was officially recognized when former mayor of Plymouth William Kiley appointed Thompson as volunteer railroad coordinator.
As railroad coordinator for Plymouth, Thompson helps local industries and individuals who may have a need for railroad services.
"None of the people at City Hall are experts in that area, so myself being basically interested in railroads for years, getting to know various railroads," qualified him as a person who could help local industries and businesses who have questions.
"So if the mayor or anyone gets a question, they speak with me and I get them in touch with the right person."
Volunteering as the city's train coordinator is just one of many ways Thompson gives back to the Plymouth community.
This father of four, ages 21, 23, 25 and 26, also serves as vice president of the Plymouth Model Railroad Club, chairman of Plymouth Downtown Revitalization Committee, treasurer for Plymouth Public Library Foundation, board member of the Plymouth Historical Society, board member of Sheboygan County Historical Society, member of the Million Dollar Round Table (the Premier Association of Financial Professionals) and belongs to St. John's Lutheran Church in Plymouth.
"It's nice to give back to the community what you can," Thompson said. "Not everyone can be paid for everything. It's important that people volunteer."
The reward for all his volunteerism, Thompson stated simply, is the "good feeling when you accomplish a project. I like to be one of the workers and stay in the background."
For those who think railroading is an outdated industry, he said that's not the case.
"There is more freight shipped by railway than ever before," Thompson said. "Everything you own has probably been touched by a railway at some time; even when you flip on a light, the electricity is … because of a railroad."
Two to three trains a day travel from Wyoming to Sheboygan bringing tons of coal, he explained.
"Bulk commodities, that's where they shine," Thompson said, adding trains can carry more bulk product quickly and at a lower rate.
According to Thompson, trains save the highways from the wear and tear of more than 8,000 semi trailers every day.
"Railroads keep the cost down," he said. "One train can transport 240 semis and it only takes two men, an engineer and conductor to run it — it's very efficient to move things by rail."
"I have nothing against trucking," said Thompson, adding that trucks are an important part of our lives as well. But "if we don't utilize railroads, our roads will take a beating."
April 17, 2006
April 22, 2005
Model railroaders invite ‘kids of all ages’ to make tracks for open house
By Emmitt B.
Model railroad buffs of all ages are awaiting the “all aboard” call this weekend at the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers headquarters, where scale-model trains of all kinds will entertain visitors during a free open house.
“Children are never too old for this,” said club president Dick Pool, 60. “There are children who are 80 years old and some who are 8. I don’t know what it is about trains that has fascinated people for so many years, but their love for trains never dies.” he said.
The public will get a chance to see for themselves when the society opens it doors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 1001 N. 10th St.
“We’ll have a ton of trains running all the time,” Pool said Thursday as he worked on some of the detail on the club’s HO-scale layout. It’s one of the largest model railroads in the Midwest, with 60 scale miles of track on five different levels, according to Pool.
The modular layout rambles through two large rooms, so that only about one-third of it is visible from any one vantage point.
“The layout is designed so the trains can go in a circle, but the people can’t,” said Ken Bailey, 49, a former club president.
Narrow aisles throughout the layout provide room for spectators to move around and see the entire track.
The layout covers a wide area, both geographically and historically, according to 76-year-old Carter Pawlus, another former club president.
“We go from an old-time steam (engine) roundhouse to the other aisle where we get into a modern-day diesel facility,” he said. “There’s a little of everything.”
The geographical variety includes the Rocky Mountains -- which took 800 pounds of plaster to build -- a West Virginia coal mine and a Detroit-style automotive industrial complex, Bailey said.
The annual open houses, held in April and October, draw 500 to 600 people a day, Pool said. The 38-foot by 46-foot layout, begun in 1994, is a work in progress that’s about 80 percent finished, with all of the club’s 22 active members participating in the designing, building and running of the railroad.
Because the layout continually changes, visitors to previous open houses will see new things, including a veteran’s park with a miniature golf course, an operating children’s train ride and a playground.
“It’s the little things that add so much to the scene,” Pool said, pointing to the children on the swing and a skateboarder in the park.
December 23, 2004
September 18, 2003
Train expo pulling into station
Event in Falls this weekend
By Mary Ann Holley
Ken Bailey says he’s always loved trains, but it wasn’t until he became an adult that he was able to truly get on track.
“It’s the little kid in all of us,” Bailey said. “It’s like a kid collecting baseball cards. They used to say in the ’50s and ’60s that when grown men went to buy trains, they’d say they were buying for their sons and wink. Now, it’s mainstream. We can buy them for ourselves.”
Saturday and Sunday, Bailey and his friends from the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers will set up their trains and tracks and all that goes with them and celebrate their love of the choo-choo at the Family Railroad Expo to be held at the Sheboygan Falls Municipal Auditorium.
Bailey’s main interest is diesel locomotives. His collection spans early types from the 1950s to the present.
“We’ve learned the ropes when it comes to putting on the show, but each year has its own challenges,” Bailey said. “Each year we try to have something a little different.”
The special feature this year will be a display from a West Bend man who will bring a portable, ride able train that will be set up behind the building. Children will be allowed to ride the train, he said.
About 50 exhibitors are expected, offering just about anything and everything pertaining to trains — trains for sale, Thomas the Tank Engine trains, railroad photographs and prints of trains of times gone by.
The Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers will feature a 20-by-30-foot modular layout that will be assembled and run at the site.
“There are really two groups that deal with trains: the model train hobby and the toy train hobby,” Bailey said. “The model trains measure out exactly to the blueprints of a full-sized train. The model is an exact representation of the real thing.”
The scale model club deals in “HO” scale trains, a replica that measures to 1/87th of the real thing, Bailey said.
“It would take 87 of our little locomotives to equal one big one,” Bailey said. “The 1/87th scale, or HO Scale, is half of O-scale or the size of the Lionel trains that were the standard at the turn of the century.”
It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that model trains were developed with the half scale — a scale that was pioneered in 1932 by William K. Walters Corp. of Milwaukee.
“They are still in the business of building model trains and are one of the largest distributors of model trains in the United States,” Bailey said. “So the HO-scale model train was kind of invented right next door.”
Model-train collecting is practiced worldwide. Bailey says it’s one of the most popular hobbies in the world.
“Model-train enthusiasts are found all over the world and recently, its popularity has exploded,” Bailey said. “There have been some famous people into trains. Frank Sinatra liked model trains, and there have been others.”
The Family Railroad Expo and shows like it are one of the best places to see what’s new on the market, Bailey said. The show provides an opportunity to get a good price on some of the best trains and products, and there are a greater variety of things because of the number of dealers coming together.
November 28, 2002
Holiday windows' tradition revived
October, 1999 Model Railroader
Casey Buteyn passed away in 1999 shortly after this was published.
December 9, 2000
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Updated: Monday, July 16, 2012