Janesville57.4°

Model railroad club ties hobbyists together

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Shelly Birkelo
February 23, 2014

JANESVILLE—More than half of Mike Bubrick's basement is filled with model railroading.

There's a staging yard with a mainline loop and more than a dozen tracks operated by a digital control with a hand throttle.

Construction of the HO scale layout started 25 years ago, but Bubrick said he's been actively working on it the last seven years.

The layout gives a glimpse of the buildings and landscape along the Milwaukee Road railroad tracks between Janesville and Mineral Point as they appeared in October 1968. The layout includes some of Bubrick's 200 cars and 52 locomotives.

Bubrick joined the Wisconsin-Illinois Modular Railroad Group about 16 years ago to learn more about model railroads.

Bill Heuser of Janesville is a member, too.

"We are a small, loose-knit organization without rigid rules and guidelines with members from the stateline area who do three shows a year and set up for our own enjoyment the rest of the months," Heuser said.

"The camaraderie and sharing of knowledge is great, and the diversity of people in the group with origins from all over the country is interesting," Bubrick said.

Fond childhood memories fuel Bubrick's love of model railroads. The fire safety retiree spends about eight hours a week working on his models.

"I enjoy re-creating the trains that I'd see coming from and going to Janesville when I was a kid and living in Rockford," Bubrick said.

Greg Anderson, a charter member of the model rail group, said it started with 16 members in November 1994. Membership peaked at 24 but has dipped to 12.

HO is the most popular scale of model railway in the world, the men said. It is 1/87 scale, meaning a 76-foot locomotive is represented as a 10.5-inch model.

"It allows modelers to fit more details and more scale miles into a comparable area," he said.

Initial dues are $50. Annual dues are never less than $25 and vary depending on projects the group is raising money for, Heuser said.

"We insist members join the Milton Historical Society which is $12.50 a year," Anderson said, because the group meets in a building near its Milton House Museum.

Anderson said the advantages of joining the local model railroad group include the camaraderie and ideas of other rail fans who don't have the money or space to put up an operating layout.

Whenever possible, the group sets up clinics focusing on model railroading topics, Heuser said.

"The big thing now is computer controlled chips in the locomotives that broadcasts signals over the rails that can blow the locomotive's whistle or turn its lights on and off. So we had someone come in and give us a talk and sponsored the slide show presentation," he said.

The club also puts on three shows a year--one in Rockford, Ill., one in Janesville and one in Madison.

Model railroading can be sophisticated or simple, cheap or expensive, the guys agreed.

"It's a personal choice," Anderson said.



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