The Bremerton Northern Model Railroad, one of Kitsap County’s longtime institutions, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The club’s roots date back to 1972, when discussions regarding formation of a club began. A year later officers were elected. Today, the club is as stable as ever, and for the first time in years has a permanent home at the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale.
Its first home was in some unused commercial space in Millie’s, a craft and costume shop. It was forced to vacate in 1978 due to expansion of the business. It then moved around to garages, some strip malls and an old fire station. There were long periods in which the exhibitions were in temporary locations, which put strain on members and their equipment as large train layouts don’t like to be packed and moved very much. Eventually, the club was allowed to take up residence at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, in President’s Hall and then the Sun Pavillion.
Still, they looked for a permanent home, and in 2019 the club struck a deal with Kitsap Mall to fill a storefront, thus making itself available to the community year-round. The exhibition is open Thursdays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Club president Bill Hupe said it has 36 members, which includes folks of all ages, mostly men but a few women.
Several aspects of the hobby are represented. Mark Stephens said the largest layout is dedicated to HO Scale trains since that’s the most popular. Other areas include the smaller N Scale trains, along with classic toy trains like Lionel S Gauge.
If you think that model trains are a thing of the past, antiquated and overtaken by video games, think again, as even electric trains have moved into the digital era.
Hupe said trains can run on traditional DC circuits, just like every model train set under a Christmas tree. But they’re also able to run what’s called DCC, in which multiple model locomotives can be run on a single, electrified line. And each receives different commands, digitally through the same rail. Further, the commands can contain speed, direction, sound and lighting commands.
And the exhibition is constantly chugging along. Club members continuously contribute to the evolution of the layout, through the addition of new lines, scenery, accessories and features.
Cara Seacrist was there recently with her two sons. She said she was looking online for fun things to do in the community when she found out about the model trains. She said it sounded like a fun thing to do inside for her oldest boy’s birthday as the weather outside was uncertain.
The club does not have any special events to celebrate its anniversary, but it will be open extra hours for upcoming holidays. Those dates include Halloween from 5-7 p.m. and Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving.