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Every holiday season, New Yorkers can look forward to a an extra stocking stuffer for the kid in us all: model railroad shows, where miniature locomotives chug along through Lilliputian landscapes and make even the most jaded grownups wistfully recall childhoods spent playing with trains in grandpa’s basement.
While the shows at Grand Central Station and the Bronx’s New York Botanic Garden get the most attention, just like everything else, Brooklyn had it first.
The Bay Ridge Model Railroad Club has been meeting and building since 1946, nearly as long as the hobby has existed. Members get together Friday nights in their 30-foot by 60-foot 93rd Street clubhouse (yes, it’s a basement) to run and tinker with the same massive 45-foot layout they built when they started the club. And each December, they welcome the community into their sanctum for their annual show, this year scheduled for Dec. 5-7.
Three bucks ($1 for kids) gets you in to see the club’s venerable O-scale collection, including passenger trains and a half-century-old replica of the elevated tracks and 60-foot “Redbird” cars that whisked millions of riders over Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach and Myrtle Avenue throughout the mid- to late-twentieth century. Everything down to the rails is built from scratch, said president Cono Bianco, who’s in his eighties and was around from the beginning. “We lay the ties down, then we lay the track down and spike it ourselves,” he said.
The collection has grown through six decades of meticulous work from the club’s members, men from all walks of life who have a passion for model railroads. They’re always looking for new blood, and anybody over 18 with a thirst for knowledge and $5 a week for dues is invited to come on down. “We want to train people, we have the equipment, and if anyone wants to join, we’re open,” Bianco says. Still, times are hard: membership has dwindled to a handful of septuagenarians.
“People are into the computers these days,” Bianco said.
The annual holiday show once attracted lines out the door, and could again as hobbyists and old-time Ridgeites mingle with the curious and uninitiated to be part of real old-town Brooklyn history – before it becomes just another warm, fuzzy memory. The Bay Ridge Model Railroad’s annual holiday train show. Friday, Dec. 5, 8—10 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 6, 2—5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 7, 2-5 p.m. 28 Marine Ave. at 93rd Street, enter on Oliver Street. Adults, $3, children 6-12 years, $1. For more information, contact Cono Bianco, (718) 743-7759 after 6 p.m.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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