When Mike Orford unwrapped his first model train, he was about as old as Alec Muldoon, 5, is today.
Both Juneau trainiacs were part of the crowd at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum Saturday afternoon for a model train invitational.
“I received a freight set in 1952 for Christmas,” said Orford, who was then living in Billings, Montana. “It hooked me.”
At Saturday’s event, Orford set up multiple trains and tracks both on a table and on the museum’s floor. All of his engines and cars were made by Lionel, and many of them were about 100 years old.
It made it understandable when one of his engines encounter a mechanical problem because of a loose nut.
“I guess they weren’t making things too carefully in 1918,” Orford said.
Orford has maintained an interest in model trains for the past 66 years, but said nowadays he doesn’t have much room to set up his trains, so he appreciated the opportunity at the city museum.
The dozens of people, hundreds of feet of track and the chugging, whistling trains at the event were a welcome sight, Orford said.
“Most of the country except Southeast Alaska is train country,” Orford said. “It’s surprising how many local people come from someplace and are affected by trains the same way I am.”
Dave Muldoon, Alec’s father, agreed it was nice to see public interest in the hobby.
“It’s pretty cool we’ve got train people in town,” he said.
Dave and Alec Muldoon each wore a pinstriped engineer’s hat. Tonya Muldoon, Alec’s mom and Dave’s wife, was hatless but was also part of the setup crew for Alec’s Thomas the Tank Engine track.
“This is one of probably eight sets that he’s got,” Dave Muldoon said. “He was born on National Train Day, and he loves trains.”
Dave Muldoon does, too, and he has collected model trains off and on over the years.
Marion McQueen’s garden-scale model of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway train drew a lot of attention from the crowd and was also an inter-generational rig.
His children fiddled with lengths of track, flipped switches and manned the controls to get the 1/32-scale model running.
McQueen, a former Valdez resident, found the model train when he was living in Maryland and decided he’d like to own a replica of the Alaska train that could run in his garden.
It was a handmade, metal special edition of the model, too, which made it even more appealing.
“This train is able to go outside in theory and brave the elements,” McQueen said. “I think it’s neat I have the Alaskan Railroad.”
While the train was made with durability in mind, McQueen said it probably gets set up and run about once a year.
His 16-year-old son, Marion McQueen IV, who inched his way around the model railway ensuring the tracks were connected securely, said he’s a fan of the times it’s up and running.