Today I attended the grand opening of the Superstition Mountain Museum Railroad. The railroad is the latest attraction to be added to the grounds of the museum.
The museum is a non-profit enterprise funded entirely by donations and run by an army of over 200 volunteers. The mission is education of the varied history of the Superstitions.
Home of the Superstition Historical Society, the museum grounds are home of the two surviving structures of the Apacheland Movie Studios, a functioning stamp mill, blocks from the original Roosevelt Dam, artifacts from many of the gold and copper mines that used to populate the area, and now the railroad.
The railroad is a G-Scale model complex, each section dedicated to a period of Arizona history. G-Scale is also called large scale – bigger than the Lionel layouts I was familiar with as a child, much larger than the HO scale Tyco set I had as a teenager.
Many of the buildings were hand crafted by volunteers. Today they had three trains running simultaneously. It includes a reproduction of the Roosevelt Dam, and semi-historical reproductions of towns.
I have watched this project grow from its inception, and and am amazed at the metamorphosis from a pile of dirt and rocks to the never-to-be-finished creation it is today.
I have always loved model railroads. The volunteers that have devoted countless hours to building this extravaganza, many old enough to be my father, are all kids at heart. Highly skilled and talented kids!
In keeping with the Museum’s mission, the brochure describes each zone of the layout and how it relates to local history. The entire layout is outdoors. This comes with its own obstacles to overcome.
You have control of indoor displays – but these volunteers have to deal with weather and nature. 120° temps in the summer wreck havoc on plastics. Monsoon rains down deluges of water on the sets. The pack rats like to steal the figurines and hide them in the tunnels where they also hoard anything else they decide to drag in.
The crowd this display drew in was huge – much larger than I would have expected. I guess I am not the only child at heart. I spent well over an hour watching the trains, and taking photographs. Over a dozen volunteer docents spent time with the visitors discussing our local history, or just talking model railroads and trains.
A lot of the volunteers have sets of their own in their houses, and still find time to participate here. Some are train enthusiasts, others model builders. Some of the donated cars cost more than a thousand dollars apiece.
All bring their skills, and senses of humor, and have created an attraction for both old and young alike. I have to return when the crowds are thinner, so that I can get better photographs. I am certain that the layout will have changed by then.