Out & About: Train exhibit adds more joy to ‘Festival of Lights’

  • Liz Sauchelli. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A train rumbles down a track that is part of the Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club's tabletop train exhibit at La Salette Shrine in Enfield. Visitors can view the exhibit from 5-9 p.m., Friday-Sunday, through Dec. 29. (Scott Hall photograph)

  • A train rumbles down a track that is part of the Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club's tabletop train exhibit at La Salette Shrine in Enfield. Visitors can view the exhibit from 5-9 p.m., Friday-Sunday, through Dec. 29. (Scott Hall photograph)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Published: 12/11/2019 4:52:28 PM

ENFIELD — Visitors to the La Salette Festival of Lights are in for an extra treat this year.

On the second floor of the building housing the cafeteria, the Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club has setup an expansive tabletop model train exhibit where visitors to the Catholic Shrine can view it from 5-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Dec. 29.

“Everyone is loving it,” said Ray Chaffee, of Enfield, the T-TRAK coordinator for club and exhibit. “They’re wondering why we haven’t been here before.”

The trains are HO model and each car is a few inches tall. They are spread out on individually created modules that are each 2¾ inches tall and connected together. Many of the modules were built by Chaffee and come from his collection. Club members also worked on them, adding features such as rolling hills and other landscape elements.

“It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be,” Chaffee said.

Chaffee also has been rotating out model planes from different time periods and military branches.

Since the exhibit has opened, there has been a steady stream of visitors of all ages. The exhibit is set up in the middle of the room and visitors can walk around it for a closeup look at each module.

The trains are run using a “digital command control.”

“They have a little computer chip in the locomotive that you can program so you can run more than one train at the same time,” explained Eugene Vigneault, of Plainfield, past president of the model railroad club.

Each of the four controllers used in the exhibit can run two trains each.

“You can do so much with it,” Vigneault said of the HO scale.

The idea for the exhibit came from John Markowitz, of Enfield, who visited the railroad club’s annual show last April at Kearsarge Regional Middle School. Markowitz and his wife, Sharon, are on the shrine’s Covenant Community of Associates board.

“I like trains,” Markowitz said. While he has a collection of G-Scale trains (larger than HO), he thought the HO trains would be a good fit for La Salette, which he knew had the space for it.

“They’re set up to do this. Why not?” he said.

Members of the club viewed the space in May and began making preparations. They installed it the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Mount Washington’s Cog Railway is sponsoring the exhibit, which includes a weekly coloring contest for children where winners receive tickets for the railway.

“I think it’s a wonderful addition to the shrine,” the Rev. John P. Sullivan, director of La Salette, said. “I love the sense of the children, anything that brings families to the shrine and unites them.”

The train exhibit fits in nicely with other exhibits at the shrine. In addition to the lights, visitors can also view an impressive collection of creches. The train exhibit also gives people a chance to step in from the cold and see the lights from up above.

“It just kind of fits in the with the whole spirit of Christmas,” Sullivan said. “They really see this as a space to grow. This brings new life to them and to us.”

Editor’s note: For more information about the Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club, visit their Facebook page: Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club. The Festival of Lights is on display from 5-9 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. For more information about the Festival of Lights, visit lasaletteofenfield.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com.




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