For some, model railroading is all about the trains…the scale, the layout, the shows. At the SouthWest Model Railroad Club (SWMRC for short), a lot of it is about the love of trains and model railroading, but it’s also about so much more.
“Everyone is welcome,” says Kevin O’Shell, SWMRC Vice President. “There is a place for everybody. If you’re a painter, you can paint backdrops. If you’re interested in lighting, design, or mechanical work, there is a place for you.”
The SWMRC, which is located at the Mid Valley Air Park in Los Lunas, has been active for nearly 30 years. At the moment, they have 39 members ranging from age 6 to 82.
“Our club is very diverse,” says O’Shell. “Currently about half of our members are retired veterans. We also have musicians, performers, teachers and children in the club.”
About the Layout
The SWMRC has a sizable layout, boasting approximately 800 feet of HO-scale track. The layout, which is located in a rented aircraft hanger at the Mid Valley Air Park in Los Lunas, is a sight to behold.
Part of the layout is modeled after the Belen Railyard. If you look closely at the far corner, you’ll see the City of Belen. The rest of the display is representative of New Mexico, with bridges, gorges, tunnels, pine trees, mesas and more.
It also offers a bit of whimsy for those who look at it for a while. Visitors might notice a bungee jumper, or a sizable whale in one of the water features.
The layout isn’t just for club members. It is open to the public, free of charge, for anyone to visit and admire. Visitors are invited to stop by Wednesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., as well as Wednesday and Saturday evenings, 7-9 p.m. The building is located at 39-B Elaine Drive in Los Lunas. Because it is located at the Air Park, visitors must be advised that airplanes always have the right of way. If you see an airplane on the road, pull off to the right side until after the airplane passes.
With its many components, model railroading lends itself easily to educational programming. Currently, the SWMRC provides an educational program for school groups visiting the layout.
“Classes come in and experience a multi-media presentation,” says O’Shell. This includes a follow-up Q&A session with club members, and, of course, the children get to see the model railroad in action.
As for the future, the club is working on a new children’s program component that can be brought directly to the schools. “We are building our children’s program to teach them about the layout and also about the history of railroading. We also teach them about skills such as public speaking,” says O’Shell.
A Museum, Too
As if working on a new children’s program isn’t enough, the SWMRC is also looking for a new, bigger, permanent building, and has their eyes set on opening a museum.
“We’re quickly outgrowing our space,” says O’Shell, pointing out that having large groups of kids, or even a clubhouse full of members, gets a little tricky when it comes to maneuvering around the layout.
Their mission is to educate and preserve the history and other aspects of railroading and model railroading in particular, and establishing a museum would speak directly to that mission. According to O’Shell, accomplishing this task is going to take a lot of support and community outreach. “We are looking for collaborators to make it happen, and make it happen fast,” he says.
Those who are interested in learning how to support the efforts to secure a building and establish the museum can contact the club directly at 505-379-7243 or 505-916-6901, or email SWMRC.President@yahoo.com.
Model Railroad Shows
The club is currently putting on approximately 6 shows per year. On Wednesday, October 31, they are opening up their clubhouse for a special Trick-or-Train event. There will be free candy and fun for all ages, and visitors will enjoy a special semi-spooky layout with dinosaurs, spiders and eyeballs!
The next event on their docket is the Model Railroad Exhibit at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts. Visitors can enjoy an 11 x 24 ft. display from November 27 to December 8, Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. As an added bonus, they will be open from Noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 1, when the Village of Los Lunas will be hosting their annual holiday festivities.
Bet You Didn’t Know…
In addition to club business, operating the layout, working on programming and dedicating themselves to the creation of a museum, the club also offers model railroad repairs. That’s like gold for model railroad hobbyists; most hobby shops don’t handle these types of repairs anymore. And the cost is very reasonable, with members typically only charging for parts (of course, donations are always welcome).
Become a Member or Support the Club
The SWMRC welcomes new members. They meet on the second Friday of each month at 7 p.m. at the EAAA Hanger at the Air Park, and also spend time in at the layout in the clubhouse. To learn more about how to become a member or how to support the club in other ways, call 505-379-7243 or 505-916-6901, or email SWMRC.President@yahoo.com. Find them online at swmrctrains.com, and follow them on Facebook, too.