All aboard for the 3rd annual Napanee Valley Railroad Model Train Show

The 3rd Annual Greater Napanee Valley Railroad Model Train Show rumbled into the Napanee Fair Grounds Arena this weekend to the delight of train enthusiasts of all ages.

“It’s been pretty busy so far, at 10 o’clock this morning they were lined up outside waiting to get in,” says John Woolhead who has spearheaded the model train show since it started in 2019. Unfortunately, after all the organization and advertising that goes into a model train show had already been done, the show had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Napanee Springside Park and Napanee River Viaduct by John Woolhouse. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Woolhead, who got his first model train at the age of seven, is a proud member of both the Picton Model Railroaders and the Associated Railroaders of Kingston.  There is currently not a club in Napanee but Woolhead organizes the show with the help of his friends and volunteers and generous support from local sponsors.

The show features 16,500 square feet of model railroad enthusiasts displaying their imaginative layouts, as well as vendors selling everything a model railroad enthusiast could imagine, from the tiniest flowers for your pretend garden to gold plated locomotives.  

Train layouts consist of hand-made models as well as store-bought buildings and cars.  The layouts can feature meticulous reconstructions of real places or fictitious worlds straight from the railroader’s imagination.

For example, Jim Burchell’s whimsical “Gobblers Knob Maple Sugar Mine,” features a fantastic tale. “In a few remote areas of Canada, like Gobbler’s Knob, Maple Sugar can be mined where old first-generation Maple forests used to grow,” reads the placard. 

The layout depicts an operating “maple sugar mine”, a company store where maple sugar products are made and sold and the hamlet of “Gobblers Knob.” Unfortunately, the train won’t be leaving soon unless “the inept track crew figure out how to fix the turnout” so “the train will leave for other markets to the south.”

All of the buildings, “critter” and rolling stock of this model are built from scratch, using metal, wood, paint and even weeds and kitty litter.

John Woolhead has three displays, one of which is a meticulous recreation of the Napanee Viaduct and Springside Park.  The viaduct was originally built and financed by the British Grand Trunk Railroad to cross the Napanee River Valley on its mainline to Montreal. The real thing is constructed from cut limestone and is 382 feet in length.

Woolhead’s model of the bridge and Springside Park shows the bridge as it was in the early 1900s prior to the reconstruction work done on the bridge in the late 1960s when CN added the concrete to the pillars and arches. The model of the park illustrates the original roadways of Bridge Street, Dundas Street and Camden Road, as they were prior to the construction of the present-day curved road bridge, which was constructed in the early 1950s. The model of the bridge is 11 feet in length and was hand-carved out of white pine.

The Napanee Valley Railroad Model Train Show runs from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. on Saturday, Sept. 18 and Sunday the 19th.  A 4th annual show is already planned for Sept. 2022. Take exit 579 from the 401, head south for 2 km to Thomas St. then turn west 1 km to the Fair Grounds.

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