On February 28, 1827, the first railway was chartered in the U.S. to carry passengers and freight. Those long-ago locomotives certainly ignited a love affair with people then, and the sentiment continues today through an enthusiasm for building and collecting model trains.

According to Bruce Alcock, Oklahoma N-Rail is a recognized nonprofit corporation that promotes and educates the public about model railroading as a hobby and the history of railroading in the state. The group also engages in civic-oriented projects related to railroading. Started in 1984 by Hank Ellett, a design engineer for an aerospace company, the club has a 52’ by 19’ layout set up at Crossroads Antique and Farmers Market in Oklahoma City. Members can run trains on the layout using their own equipment or the club’s.

“A good way to get to know more about model railroading is to join the club as an associate member, which is only $30 for a one-year membership,” says Alcock. “You can then attend the meetings and shows without having to purchase any equipment.”

Alcock has been involved in the hobby for 65 years. His father was a model railroader, and Alcock has enjoyed both model trains and riding passenger trains all over the country.

“My greatest joy is to lead a [model train] clinic, get participants involved in the joy of adding scenery to a model, enhancing the look of the track, or adding animation or some other aspect of building a model railroad,” he says.

Chuck Peterson, another member of Oklahoma N-Rail, also got started in the hobby as a child.

“I first fell in love with model trains when I got my first Lionel train … in third grade. I found it under the Christmas tree,” he says with a laugh. “I decided to get back into model railroading when I retired, and was inspired by layouts I saw around the country, as well as OK N-Rail’s layout at Crossroads.”

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Peterson says the hobby has provided a way for him to use his geological knowledge and to explore his creative and artistic skills.

“Trying to make an N-scale diorama look as realistic as possible is very rewarding,” he says. Visit the club’s website at oknrail.org.

Ed Birch, the manager of Whistle Stop Trains in Oklahoma City, passes his love for model trains on to his customers while helping them find just the right train or accessory.

“There are six major scales,” he says. “G is the largest and was first created in Europe. It was meant to be for outdoor model railroading in the gardens, hence the ‘G’ stood for garden railroading. There are some examples of this here in Oklahoma.”

Birch says the O gauge trains have been made by Lionel Trains since 1900. This size is on a 1 to 48 scale.

“There are several model train clubs in Oklahoma with websites,” says Birch. “They would be a good source for further information, as they are avid enthusiasts.”

Railroads helped build the country, and with model train hobbyists, they will never go unnoticed. 

Major scales:

G – 1 to 22.5

O – 1 to 48

HO – 1 to 87

N – 1 to 160

Z – 1 to 220