In its 63rd annual open house, the Valley Model Railroad Club is doing something different.
Members are pairing their three-day open house event with a food drive benefiting the South Elgin Food Pantry. Visitors who bring in a canned good or some other nonperishable item will get a free raffle ticket and be entered into a drawing for model railroading prizes.
Duane Tuma, a 25-year member of the club, said the food drive fits in well with the goals of the family-oriented club.
"It's one way of giving back to the community," Tuma said. "Especially with the way things are right now."
The Valley Model Railroad Club is made up of plenty of husband and wife pairs and multigenerational family groups. Tuma said there are third generation members who first came to the club with their grandfathers.
The model railroaders gather to share their love of trains at the old Clintonville Substation on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad line in South Elgin. They moved into the building in 1953. For decades members built up a model, constantly adding new bits of scenery and adding new track designs until 1999 when they basically tore out the old layout and started fresh.
"One thing about model railroading, once you think you're done then you start over again," Tuma said. "You never finish anything because it's always changing."
Members invite anyone interested in model railroads to the open house, whether that interest is backed by extensive knowledge of the hobby or not. Tuma said visitors can talk to club members on various committees focused on parts of the layout like scenery, electricity or track.
The open house will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16; 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18 at the club, 33W519 Kenyon Road in South Elgin.
Outside of the annual open house, club members regularly welcome community groups -- most often Boy Scouts -- to tour the club and check out the layout. And every month they set up a display at the Great Midwest Train Show at the DuPage County Fairgrounds.
For details call (847) 742-2028 or visit vmrr.org.