Whistle Stop museum in Kingman will focus on all sizes of model trains

Whistle Stop museum will showcase various relics, some saved from dump

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Whistle Stop Railroad Club member Mark Wolski tinkers with the railroad museum’s first exhibit, a rebuilt model train that lived in a junk box destined for the landfill.

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Whistle Stop Railroad Club member Mark Wolski tinkers with the railroad museum’s first exhibit, a rebuilt model train that lived in a junk box destined for the landfill.

KINGMAN - A box of beaten up model trains and parts sits at a secondhand store waiting for someone to dump it in the trash. In steps Mark Wolski, a member of the Whistle Stop Railroad Club. He's accompanied by several of his club mates. The group focuses on two items in the box - a water tower and a light.

They ask the cashier if they can purchase just the two items and are told no. If they want the tower and light, they have to purchase the whole box.

"It looked like someone took a hammer to the locomotive," Wolski said. "Wires were coming out of the sides. It was missing its pickup and it looked like it should have been sent to the landfill two months ago."

The men purchased the "box of junk," and instead of tossing it in the trash, Wolski set his mind to fixing its contents. After countless hours of work, Wolski had the train all fixed up and zipping around a small track.

"It's like God stuck his hand out and said, 'Here's your train, boys,'" Wolski said.

On Monday, the rebuilt train sat on the floor of an empty room at the Amtrak Train Depot, 400 E. Andy Devine Ave. The room is set to become a railroad museum operated by the Whistle Stop Railroad Club and owned by the city, and the train set rebuilt by Wolski is officially the first display.

The 14,500-square-foot room will showcase various railroad relics, different types of model trains and several panels describing the history of railroads throughout the world, across the U.S. and here in Kingman.

"We hope to have the museum opened by the end of July," said Dave Bacon, the president of the club.

The club is undecided whether it wants to keep the museum open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or add Sunday to the schedule. Bacon said Kingman sees a lot of tour buses coming through town on Sundays and thinks it would be a smart move to stay open in order to attract passengers' interest.

The Kingman Tourism Development Commission is funding the $15,400 project, which includes mandatory insurance. The club has promised to give back any money it doesn't spend to get the museum up and running. Also, the city gets the rights to any property purchased for the museum with city funds.

The club is a nonprofit organization, so if there are months when the museum pulls in more revenue than it spends on expenses, the "profits" will be paid back to the city, Bacon said.

Admission will cost $2 a person, and children under five years old will get in free.

The idea of opening a museum has been on the minds of club members since before there was a club. Bacon and his colleagues wanted to open a railroad museum ever since the depot closed about a decade ago. The club officially formed two years ago and immediately started a process with the city to get what they coveted.

"It was eight years of wishing and a couple of years of hard work," Bacon said.

Though the club is searching for relics to add to the museum from all sorts of sources, it has enough items to open the museum now.

Two antique carts - one for luggage and one for ice - will be on display. The luggage cart, which currently sits in the basement of the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, had been used decades ago at a Needles, Calif. train station. The ice cart, which was also used in Needles, is currently at the Powerhouse Route 66 Museum. Bacon said the cart was used to haul large blocks of ice to a passenger car, where it would be set in front of several fans and used to cool passengers off.

Several model train setups, including a Lionel, an N-gauge and a HO-gauge, will serve as the museum's main attractions. Production of Lionel trains started in the early 1900s, and the vast majority of those around today came out of the 1940s and 1950s. The N- and HO-gauge distinctions refer to the scale of particular types of model trains, with HO-gauges being the smallest at 1/87 of a train's actual size.

Five or six panels describing railroad history will decorate the building as well. Bacon said the club's first panel will deal with the oldest known railroad, Diolkos. It was a paved track built in ancient Greece in 600 B.C. and used to transport boats over land. It was used for 600 years, Bacon said.

It's a relatively small room, but the members of the Whistle Stop Railroad Club plan to fill it with their passion for railroad history.

A train goes by as Bacon discusses museum plans with members of the club. Five grown men - each over the age of 50 - huddle at a window to watch it pass. Their smiles beam and their eyes are as wide as saucers. One says something to another and they all break out in laughter, clearly enjoying the view.