A duo for the railroad

Couple and club ready for 15th annual Train Show & Swap Meet

Gary and Darlene Vihinen of Carlsborg continue to work in their garage on their train set that somewhat reflects the trip from Butte

Gary and Darlene Vihinen of Carlsborg continue to work in their garage on their train set that somewhat reflects the trip from Butte

The space formerly reserved in the garage for Darlene Vihinen’s car now holds a train — actually lots of them and an intricate train set.

As model railroaders, Darlene and her husband Gary converted a portion of their Carlsborg home’s three-car garage into one-part train set, another part art studio and another wood shop.

Darlene said she willingly gave up her parking space though.

“I kinda like it too,” she said of railroading. “It’s one of his hobbies we can do together.”

They’ll be participating at the 15th annual Train Show & Swap Meet on Oct. 18-19 at the Sequim Prairie Grange.

While Gary has had a lifelong interest in trains thanks to his cousin and friend having train sets of their own he could play with, his interest was piqued while walking at the Clallam County Fair about five years ago. There he saw the North Olympic Peninsula Railroaders’ large train set.

“My wife said she saw my eyes lit up,” Gary said.

But Gary never imagined he’d get into the hobby.

“My intention was not to get into railroading because I didn’t think I’d have the space,” he said.

However, the couple typically works on their train set a few times a month with Gary focused on construction and Darlene on scenery and models but always together.

“She likes doing the crafty kind of things,” Gary said.

“We don’t spend as much time as we would like on railroading especially in the summer with all the yard work.”

But the couple seems to have a lot going in retirement.

“I have almost too many interests,” Gary said.

“When my dad retired he didn’t know what to do. I wanted an idea of what to do and started about 10 years before (retirement). In junior high I remembered liking wood working and painting I always had in the back of my mind.”

Plans and development

Hanging on the north side of the garage is a preliminary design of the Vihinens’ nearly wall-to-wall train set. The couple, originally from Montana in 1978, based their layout on the railroad tracks from Glendive in Eastern Montana to Butte.

Gary said the track curves didn’t pan out exactly but its features and industries depicted roughly model that of the same trip.

Their train set is midway through Phase II with the first laying the waist-high track and scenery, the second is another level of trains and bridges and the third is a staging yard. Gary said their next steps are building the upper base, risers and bridges.

Long-time club member Dick Wolf said the Vihinens’ train set is representative of many club members in that rarely anyone finishes and that train sets are always a work in progress.

“This is what the hobby is all about — building,” he said.

Most of the Vihinens’ train equipment is new but they also find many items at swap meets and shows.

Railroaders also use unconventional materials to develop their sets such as newspaper, plaster cloth, rope and florist wire.

When Gary isn’t painting, woodworking, working in the yard and/or building his train set, he’s also developing a railroad program for other railroaders to operate their sets like real railroads where train cars can be dropped off and picked up.

Free weekend show

While the Vihinens’ railroad has been running about five years, the North Olympic Peninsula Railroaders drive into their 15th year.

New to the event is a 9-foot-by-3-foot N-scale track, which is about one-fourth the size of HO-scale, the most common scale. It’s modeled after a Japanese bullet train.

Returning is the club’s popular 20-foot-by-15-foot display along with vendors, a train set for children to play with, door prizes and more.

Club members continue to work on a 20-foot-by-8-foot lightweight display that reflects the former railway in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Steve Stripp, club president, said they hope to be done for their show next year.

For more information on the club, they meet the last Saturday of each month at the Sequim Library at 3 p.m. Call 582-1316 or e-mail stevenstripp@juno.com or e78milrd@q.com.


15th Train Show & Swap Meet

North Olympic Peninsula Railroaders

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19

Where: Sequim Prairie Grange, 290 Macleay Road

Cost: Free

Featuring: displays, door prizes, model scales G-Z with trains for children to try, more

More info: Call 582-1316,  e-mail

stevenstripp@juno.com or e-mail


Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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