Model trains take life in tiny communities within our own
Hop aboard and take a tour around the Northern Minnesota Railroad Heritage Association museum, a vast collection of model trains, antiques and memorabilia in Crosslake, Minn. Miniature architecture at its finest takes life in full display inside the building that fittingly looks like a train depot along County Road 66 in Crosslake. A recommended $5 donation is well worth the visit, with tons of HO, O and Garden scale locomotives and vast, intricate layouts to enjoy.
A history of the ‘history on display’
The club was founded by Darlene Blazina, back when several other people joined to form the club in March 2006. The club moved into a brand-new facility in 2018 when tragically, a fire destroyed the building and nearly all of its displays, according to one of its original websites. Yet with perseverance, members began fundraising and now enjoy another new building at 36184 County Road 66 in Crosslake.
Tour director Bill Bury completed extensive work on the main level layouts, and other members have designed a massive garden-scale, or G-scale, layout that fills up the entire lower level. As the name implies, these setups are often seen in gardens because they take up so much room compared to smaller configurations. Operators can lift open the bridge and walk into the center of the layout to access the controls and watch all the action pass around themselves.
Upstairs, more rugged, simple displays are at children’s fingertips for them to learn, play and get hands-on experience with the locomotives, cars and switches.
The classic sound of the train bell and clacking wheels is only the beginning of the amazing, lifelike features in these displays. See the drive-in theater that actually plays a real movie on, well … a tiny big screen? Then meander through the rugged industrial yards, residential communities and quaint countrysides before the pass under the mountain. Above, the helicopter is running at the ski chalet while little skiers hit the slopes. Over every bridge and out of every tunnel, mining, timber, farming, construction, entertainment and retail shopping are on display in beautiful detail. Don’t want to pay for an actual billboard in Crosslake? Rent a tiny ad space at the Martinville Square marquis sign downstairs in the G-scale community. Or if you’re lucky enough, one day have your own little storefront, like Sam’s Bike Shop. Historical displays, nostalgic photographs and memorabilia round out the whole experience.
Plan your visit
The club is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday throughout the year. Wednesdays are added to the tour schedules in the summer months as well.