The Upper Cumberland Railroad Society (UCRS) and the Crossville Model Railroad Club (CMRC) constructed a railroad museum and an exhibit of various sizes of model railroads in a 4,500 sq. ft. storefront in the Cumberland Outlet Center in Crossville, Tenn.
Steve Rosenstein, who manages public relations for the CMRC said, “This display started about seven or eight years ago. The club started really in people’s basements, as is a typical railway club. They would get together, and the club decided they wanted to something permanent and started looking for a space.”
“And, actually, the building is still going on,” said Rosenstein. “There are some sections of this layout that have been built within this last year because once you run out of space you run out of things to do so you’re always building and building.”
Kendall, 6, and Will, 10, came from Nashville to visit their grandparents in Crossville. This was their first time to see the display. Kendall said, “I like how they have the buttons and stuff, and I like how they have [Thomas the Train] with the candy in it.”
Will said, “I like where you can search for things.” By using a scavenger hunt list located at the front desk, visitors are encouraged to look for items hidden within the railroad scenes created by club members.
“Most of our layouts,” said Rosenstein, “are built with a lot of interactivity for children. … They can press buttons and run trains. They can create sounds.”
The CMRC is uncommon as a model railroad club because its membership includes people who work with various model scales. Rosenstein said, “Most clubs you go to you’re going to see maybe an HO-scale, which is the most popular scale. Maybe an N-scale club. This club has all popular scales in it.”
“I’m a G-scaler,” he said. “I was an HO person until I moved down here [from New York]. I bought a house that had a garden railroad in the backyard, and now I’m a G-scaler.”
The CMRC displays the following gauges (from smallest to largest) at this location: Z, N, HO, O and G. OakridgeHobbies.com shows a comparison photo of model engines in these gauges with ratios of the model trains to real trains.
This 12-year-old organization has increased its visibility with different methods of promoting the model railroad exhibit. Rosenstein said, “We now have signs on I-40, … so now people can find us more easily. We’re on Facebook. We have a website. We’re on TripAdvisor. … So we get a lot of people here, and a lot of people review us very favorably online. They take photos, and they post their photos. They take videos and put them on YouTube. People are really blown away when they see this display.”
Based on reviews posted on TripAdvisor at the time of this posting, visitors have ranked the model railroad exhibit as the number one attraction in Crossville.
Rosenstein said, “We very carefully track our visitors. Everyone who comes in the door gets counted. We have a guest book where people can sign in. We get upwards of 30,000 people a year, and they come here from all over the world. We look at our guest book. There are people from Australia, from Europe, from South America – people from all over the United States.”
The UCRS hosts model railroading classes throughout the year and has listed upcoming classes on its website for Feb. 2, March 21 and April 11, at 8 a.m. Interested persons must register via contacts on the UCRS webpage.
Rosenstein said, “So you have all of these various skills involved in model railroading which are very valuable to a child. A child has to learn about electricity if they’re going build a model railroad layout. They have to learn how to paint things. They have to learn how to build things. It’s not sitting at a computer starring at a screen, punching buttons to play a video game. We wish more people would get their children involved in model railroading.”
Volunteers work six days a week at the mall to make sure this display is open for visitors. Because the UCRS and CMRC do not charge admission, members are dependent on membership dues and donations to maintain the exhibits.
CMRC member Wayne Lokey said, “This is our big toy box. We come in and play.” However, he explained that repairing equipment and scenery is expensive. Trains that run constantly while the exhibit is open to the public get very hot. He said that new O-scale engines could cost up to $1,000.
For more information about membership or to make a donation, contact Steve Rosenstein at 931-742-0151 (after 6 p.m. CST) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.