After 19 years, Lake County model railroad club is looking for its next stop
The North Central O Gaugers Model Railroad Club, a popular public attraction at the Fremont Public Library in Mundelein for 19 years, is seeking a new home.
Most of the time, the club's expansive layout on the second floor is open only to members. But on the second Saturday of each month, from 600 to 800 visitors come to a free open house to share the passion for model railroading.
Founded by two enthusiasts who worked together in a hobby shop, the club found a welcoming home at the library, 1170 N. Midlothian Road.
Members spent considerable time assembling a 21- by 48-foot, three-loop, three-rail layout as its permanent base of operations.
But what has been an unfinished space on the east side of the second floor is slated for other uses by early next year, prompting the club to begin looking for its next stop.
The club needs about 3,000 square feet on a ground floor. A larger space would be preferred because it would allow the club to open a children's section, said Vern Lappe, special runs director.
"We are looking at warehouses, old store fronts or large garages or any reasonable open space that is habitable," Lappe said. "We have people looking everywhere -- any possibility," he added.
Reasonable is the operative word as funds are limited. The club's rent at the library is $100 per month.
Village officials in and around Mundelein are being contacted, Lappe said. There have been some nibbles but nothing official.
"Our presence in any community would be an asset," he said. "People love to see trains."
That hasn't been possible because of the pandemic. Open houses have not been allowed at the library. Members also were restricted for several months but the space is now open to them.
Library officials were not immediately available Monday to discuss pending plans for the space or the impact the club has had on the operation.
The train layout is decorated with various themes to match seasons. It can accommodate engines of all sizes and train lengths and is designed to be operated with hand-held radio controls. There also is a children's layout.
Lappe said many visitors say they have trains they had as children in the attic or garage. They're encouraged to bring them in to be tuned up and oiled and allowed to run on the club's tracks.
"We have a bank of controls and power supplies," he said.
The club also does four or five appearance a year at various locations using a modular traveling layout.