Photo by Kelly White
Oak Lawn resident Colleen Stedman and her son, Joshua, 1, enjoy the 14th Annual Southland Model Railroad Show at Richards High School in Oak Lawn on Saturday.
The Richards High School Performing Arts Department held its 14th Annual Southland Model Railroad Show this past weekend at the school, 10601 S. Central Ave., Oak Lawn.
It is the only event of its kind in the south suburban region that featured 16 different clubs and train layouts. It is known as the largest in the Chicago metro area, according to District 218 Public Information Specialist, Bob McParland.
“My sons love everything about trains, so when we heard of this event, we knew right away that we had to come,” said Colleen Stedman, of Oak Lawn. “What first sparked their interest in trains is the train around the Christmas tree that my husband puts up every year. Since then, their fascination has grown.”
Participating this year were several model railroads exhibitors, including: Venture Crew 57, Blackhawk Chapter NRHS, LGB MRRCC, Midwest N Pioneer Model RR Club, John Massura, Northwest Society of Engineers, Kane County Model RR Club, Jeff Viens/ Legos, British Train Society, Hertiage N-Track, Dupage Division NMRA, Midwest Rails, North Shore 4 Western Modular Club, CASG, Bolingbrook RR Club and Midwest Division TCA.
The family-friendly event also featured model train displays and operating layouts for all ages, Lego trains, and a riding train for children, train races for children and a children train-related interactive activities.
“I love Thomas the Train,” said Isaac Gungor, 4, of New Lenox.
Gungor’s love for Thomas brought him and his family, mother, Rebecca Gungor; grandma, Virginia Ebrier, of Oak Lawn; and great-grandparents, Joan and Richard Brinnehl, of Palos Heights, together on Saturday afternoon.
“He loves anything to do with trains, but especially Thomas the Train,” his mother said. “He could easily stand and watch the model trains go by all day long.”
Another young train enthusiast was 3-year-old Sean Mollenhauer, of Oak Brook, who attended with his father, John Mollenhauer.
“I personally don’t have much interest in trains besides taking the train to work every day,” Mollenhauer joked. “But my son is very interested in them.”
Charles Martin, the band director at Richards, was responsible for organizing the event, along with parents in the music boosters organization.
“It is a truly unique event,” Martin said. “When I came here in 1995, I was looking for a unique event to be a fundraiser and a parent suggested this idea to me.”
The parent Marin was referring to is Mike LaBeau, who still helps out with the event 14 years later -- long after his children have graduated from Richards.
“I like the uniqueness of the event and I am always amazed at the clubs and how dedicated to their layouts,” Martin said. “Some take almost three hours to set up. Over the last 14 years the Southland Model Train Show has been a great event, and everyone that attended was able to see cool layouts and the new technology that they are using like wireless controls. The Lego people always surprise me with constantly adding new additions to their layouts.”
With the largest train layout measuring 100 feet, the event took up half the school, from the cafe, the school’s main gym, gym stage and auxiliary gym.
The cost of admission was $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens with children age 12 and under attending free. Participants were also able to enjoy vendors, concessions and free parking with all proceeds support the Richards Performing Arts Department.
Described by Bob McParland, District 218 spokesperson, as the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the event gathered 2,000 attendees of all ages.
“The monies raised help fund the biannual trip for the performing arts, (the) band, choir and drama,” Martin said. “In June 2017 the HLR band, HLR choir and HLR Drama will travel to Orlando, Fla., to perform at Disney World. We travel every other year, and this is a travel year for us.”