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RACINE — Whistles blow, lights flash and train cars flash by in a second-story room on the city’s west side. The Lionel Railroad Club of Southeastern Wisconsin is as busy as a real-life railroad during the winter months.

This group of model railroad enthusiasts has fashioned a pair of elaborate layouts where steam locomotives of days gone by and modern diesel-electric-powered trains roll into towns, through tunnels, over soaring canyons and past farms.

A careful eye will spot details like chickens in a yard, tools stacked against a building and an array of classic automobiles on streets and roadways. The largest layout is 17-by-24 feet with three loops of track.

Members invite the public – especially families with children – to see their handiwork at monthly open houses, says Dan Hechel, club president.

Lionel trains, Lionel Railroad Club
A train crosses a bridge spanning a deep canyon at the Lionel Railroad Club of Southeastern Wisconsin. – Credit: Paul Holley
Lionel trains, Lionel Railroad Club
An amusement park – with working rides – is a feature of a model train layout at the Lionel Railroad Club of Southeast Wisconsin. – Credit: Paul Holley

The next open house is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday (Feb. 18) at the clubroom located above American Coin & Jewelry, 4625 Washington Ave. (southeast corner of Washington Avenue and Ohio Street). Admission is free; donations are welcomed.

Additional open house dates are Saturdays, March 18, and April 22.

The Lionel Railroad Club of Southeastern Wisconsin has been around for more than 25 years. Members previously built and maintained model train layouts at locations in Racine and Kenosha before setting up shop at the current site.

To learn more about the club, follow its Facebook page or email:

If you go:  Park in the lot behind the building at 4625 Washington Ave. Use the side entrance off Ohio Street (look for the signs).

Lionel trains, Lionel Railroad Club
Open house is this Saturday (Feb. 18) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second floor of 4625 Washington Ave. Park in the back and use the side entrance off Ohio Street. Look for the sign. – Credit: Paul Holley

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...