Choo-choo! Train Day

Posted 6/12/24

It was an exciting day for train aficionados. On Saturday, June 8 th , the annual Train Day was held at Redfield Depot. Volunteers stated that a steady stream of enthusiasts came to the station.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Choo-choo! Train Day


It was an exciting day for train aficionados. On Saturday, June 8th, the annual Train Day was held at Redfield Depot. Volunteers stated that a steady stream of enthusiasts came to the station.

Members of the Dakota Southeastern division of the National Model Railroad Association were at hand. They had brought their model train display from Sioux Falls. In one corner, kids were encouraged to sign up to learn how to control a model train. After doing such, kids would receive a certificate as an N-scale operator.

The crowd was mostly kids – and their parents or chaperones. However, wonder at trains was found on people of all ages. The members said that they’d started their own love of trains when young.

On the main track, trains were controlled remotely by members. Things such as speed, lights, and sound effects could be controlled. The hand painted background looked to be made of cardboard. All around the track were various landscapes and cityscapes. The tracks sat on a wooden base. In one corner, there was a noisy, light-up storm cloud, which was a fun addition.

Outside, kids could ride in the barrel train. This curled around the parking lots area. On the other side of the depot, a couple of carts sat on the train tracks. These were originally designed to transport train personnel. It was explained that these were largely replaced by pick-ups. These pick-ups had special wheel additions that enabled them to run on train tracks. Rides on the carts were given.

Jim Krekelberg, a member of the Dakota Southeastern group, said that the group was actually split that day. Some were in Redfield. The rest were in Harrisburg, near Sioux Falls. N scale trains were on display in Redfield. An HO layout was on display in Harrisburg, near Sioux Falls.

Krekelberg stated that the group, based in Sioux Falls, was for most of the state. Members were widespread. Along with monthly meetings in members’ homes, the group traveled with their model train layouts. He stated that the group had been to Garrett; Cheyenne, WY; Canton; North Platte, NE; and Watertown, among other places.

Krekelberg was exposed to trains at a young age. His dad worked for Chicago Northwestern Railroad. This fostered his love for trains. He said that at his home, he has room for 4 or 5 trains, on 2 levels.

Krekelberg, along with fellow member Michael Mornard, talked about changes the railways have seen over time. Krekelberg mentioned that there’s “first feelers” being put out over re-opening a passenger line between Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN and Rapid City, SD. This would include stops in Mankato, MN and Sioux Falls SD. This would likely be run by Amtrak if enough interest was shown by potential passengers.

Mornard’s love started at a young age as well. He said “My 2nd earliest memory – from when I was 2 and a half – is: I lived in a small town in North Wisconsin. My grandfather had a drug store.” He would visit his grandfather at the store. Down the street, there were a couple more stores, then train tracks. “I remember watching the trains. I was already hooked.” he continued. He recalled that his grandfather always told him to stay off of the tracks.

Mornard said that people often ask how much is spent on the model trains – but it’s not easy to quantify. “People always ask how much the hobby costs. But it’s a little bit over years and years. It grows gradually.” He likened model train enthusiasts to fishing enthusiasts. “Avid fishermen don’t start out with all that equipment they have. It builds.” he said.

Technology changed since they started with trains. For one thing, remote controls became more advanced. (The group used Digitrax controls.) They could be used for different cars. Along with controlling speed, they could add in sound effects. “All the bells and whistles” Mornard said. He noted that while they’re still called whistles, what modern trains use are actually air horns.

Nowadays, Krekelberg explained, there are long transport trains. They use diesel fuel. But, passenger trains “used to be the main transportation.” Many towns in the middle of the U.S. were built because rail lines were set to come through. Krekelberg said “The reason that a lot of these towns are 12-15 miles apart is that was how far a steam engine could go without stopping.” The industry was dominant for many years. “The railroad built a lot of this country.” he said.

Krekelberg said that the group had been coming to Train Day in Redfield for 3-4 years. He also said that they’d seen a “steady stream” of people on Saturday.

Mornard explained that the train layout on display was one owned by the club. He said “It lives in the trailer between shows.”

Exactly what was so fascinating about trains was something that no one seemed able to pinpoint. Young people to older people enjoyed the sight of the trains. For many, it was (or will be) a life-long love.

Mornard said “There's gotta be something in your life that makes you happy to get out of bed.” This was one of those things for the people involved.