By Douglas W. Motley
HO (1:87-scale) model trains returned last week to Lake Arrowhead Village, following a five-year absence. Located in the building adjacent to McDonalds, the approximately 100-foot-long circular track layout features Santa Fe’s “Super Chief” and Southern Pacific Railroad engines, pulling long lines of boxcars, log transporters and fuel tankers.
The display features multiple train tracks and scenery of mountains, trees and towns. As you enter the double doors, around the front edge of the display is a quilt exhibiting the fruit crate labels that have trains on them from 100 years ago.
The exhibit, which opened on Saturday, May 7, is owned and operated by the Inland Empire Modular Railroaders Club and operated by retired law enforcement officer Don Mitchell. Mitchell noted that his track layout is much larger than the one the club fielded five years ago on the opposite side of the village in the building now occupied by Alexandra’s Emporium. He said the club is accepting donations to cover the costs of insurance, utilities and other operating expenses. There are donation containers at each end the display.
His layout was so popular five years ago, Mitchell said, that it remained open for eight months, during which he estimates about 250,000 persons visited it. He is hoping for even more visitors this year.
In the past, Mitchell said, the trains were powered by a hand-operated transformer. Nowadays, however, thanks to an invention made by model railroad enthusiast and musician Neil Young, the trains are powered by remote radio control.
Mitchell’s model railroad partner Marc Thrasher designed a boxcar that is dedicated to the 14 persons killed and 22 seriously injured during the Dec. 2, 2015, terrorist shooting incident in San Bernardino.
One section of the display is from the personal trainset collection belonging to the late Bob Holding from Crestline. Holding was well-known in the area for his dedication to veterans and the Leisure Shores Seniors’ Center.