All aboard!

Dedicated group keeps Boutwells Landing trains running on time

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

OAK PARK HEIGHTS – In a former basement storeroom at Boutwells Landing, the trains always run on time to the delight of young and old.

A dedicated group of model railroaders have turned a room that once stored chairs into a two-level set running HO- and O-gauge model trains. Group members have turned parts of the two levels into winter scenes for the holidays, but they have bigger plans for their set-up.

"We’re thinking of putting in the roads and trackage that they had in Stillwater and Bayport in the 1940s." said Jess Escue. "There are a lot of local people here (Boutwells Landing). They remember the 1940s and 50s."

The story of the B&L Railroad Club begins earlier this year when Escue and several other Boutwells residents interested in model railroading asked Boutwells’ management if there was space in the facility to pursue their hobby.

"My wife came up with the idea," Escue said. "She said we ought to have a train club here for the guys who don’t like to play pool."

The train club’s request fit with Boutwells’ philosophy of offering residents opportunities to pursue their hobbies and interests, said Holly Minners, Boutwells’ community relations manager.

"If there is something we don’t have a Boutwells Landing, we try to provide the space (for it)" she said. "We try to figure out what to do to address residents’ needs."

In the case of the model railroad club, Boutwells officials found a basement room with enough space to handle the group’s 20-by-22-foot, two tier track setup. There was only one problem,

"Boutwells Landing had a room full of furniture. They couldn’t get it clogged out," Escue said.

The furniture was eventually moved and the model railroaders began planning their track set-up this past spring.

"I was surprised at how agreeable they were and as quick as they did it," Escue said.

Besides the room, Boutwells provided the group some money to get started and assistance in setting up the railroaders as a charitable organization that can accept donations of equipment and money from the community.

"We can give them (donors) a tax write-off," Escue said.

It took train club members several weeks "to figure out what to do" with the space the club was given, according to Escue. The club got help building its two-tier table from Boutwells wood shop group.

"The wood shop boys did quite a bit of work for us," Escue said.

The track, trains and scenery items came from club member’s collections and community donations,

Club members said their holiday set-up was a popular stop for Boutwells residents and visitors. Club member John Lawton said at least 150 people stopped by the club’s room to view the setup.

"We encourage people to come," added club member Bill Fletcher.

A way club members spread the word about their group was setting up a "Polar Express train outside Boutwells Terrace Caf