Library train 1By Shelby R. Farrell


CHERRY VALLEY – The Cherry Valley Public Library bridged the gap between generations with a model train display that brought all aboard over the holidays.

A model train racing around a track under the Christmas tree has been a staple of Christmas decorations over the last century.

However, Frank McCabe, who is a member of the Rock River Valley Division of the National Model Railroad Association, said this was the first year that he knew of that his group brought their models to a library during the holiday season.

“The Rock River Valley Division sponsors to have a display once a year in March at one of the high schools in the area, but we don’t really go to libraries that often,” he said. “It was interesting when the library expressed an interest for a display over the holiday period.”

The display was hosted from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30 in one of the library’s meeting rooms and included multiple kinds of running models with switching tracks, model bridges and other scenery, as well as photographs of real trains, history and artwork. McCabe said the entire display took about a half of a day to set up and again to take down on Dec. 31.

“There is a number of different aspects to it,” he said. “Of course there is the entertainment value. We tried to incorporate railroads from this area, and the library put together a laptop with a program of the local railroad history.”

McCabe said he gained interest in model trains when he was a kid in the 1950s, but it is harder to get children interested in trains and railroads in the modern, digital world.

“I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and my brother had a Lionel set that I played with as well,” he said. “In those days, in the 1950s, people rode trains a lot more often. They were more prominent in our lives. It’s a hobby I’ve participated in my whole life.”

While riding trains isn’t as important in most people’s lives anymore, he said exposure to Thomas the Tank Engine has brought some newer generations into the model train and railroad hobby. Some models of Thomas the Tank Engine were at the library’s display over the holidays.

McCabe said the event drew in more than 100 people every day, according to an informal count of 130 people on Dec. 29. He said the event was a success, and they hope to return next year if the library asks.

“It really is a family event,” he said. “There is something for everyone.”

The Rock River Valley Division of the National Model Railroad Association meets at 1 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month at the Midway Village Museum Center in Rockford, at 6799 Guilford Road.

To find more information, visit the association’s official website at

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