Alex VanZanten poses with a train exhibit. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Alex VanZanten poses with a train exhibit. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – Good participation from railroad hobbyists and a strong support from the local community made this one of the best Historical Society Train Shows at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds in recent times.

Members of the Battle Creek-Kalamazoo Area Railroad Club brought a peninsular modular train set that was the length of 28 modules.

Alex VanZanten said that modular sections were put together to form a layout. Modular sections represent a certain scenery or village setting, certain train connections and small portions of the whole geographic region to be projected.

In addition to the train tracks carrying several trains, a road also surrounds the entire inner portion of the track.

VanZanten said that many of their ideas come through association with the National Model Railroad’s Association (NMRA).

“What makes ours unique is that each section has wings or sides that enable us to look a certain way at a certain section,” said VanZanten. “The modular and scenery represent the different eras where things came together this way.”

In 2004, Donn Craig, Don Stakes and VanZanten came together to form the Battle Creek-Kalamazoo Club.

“Members of the Lansing Model Club decided that they wanted to come together with Battle Creek,” said VanZanten.

VanZanten laughed when he talked about the first convention they ever attended.

“We started with a small club of 8-15 members and we attended the Detroit National Convention,” observed VanZanten. “Since then we have done between five and seven shows a year, especially this one in Van Wert. We really enjoy seeing other people and what they are doing with their layouts.”

Since then they have been to several national conventions including Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Grand Rapids.

VanZanten said that there are several different aspects of the club that he really enjoys including getting to know people from all over the country, seeing the different designs and modules and the different talents of those in the club.

“One person is a tremendous painter,” said VanZanten. “Another is skilled at painting the train cars.” Other skills include electrician, carpenter, designer and other simple skills.

VanZanten said that the layout is measured on a 1-87 scale with an 87-foot passenger car measured out at one foot on the set.

VanZanten said that he built most of the buildings on the current set, including the pine trees.