CROSSLAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — Crosslake is one of those communities that grows to almost double the size in the summer, but as we learned this area has a lot to offer in the winter as well.
Not too far away in a small, unassuming building off County Road 3, we found what many people here call the biggest kept secret in Crosslake.
“We posted notices at various hobby shops and anybody wanting to start a model railroad club please sign below,” Darlene Blazena said.
That was the start of the Northern Minnesota Railroad Heritage Association, or Northern Trackers. All thanks to one woman and her love of trains.
“In March of 2006 we met at Gary’s Bar and Grill in Ironton,” Blazena said. “We just talked about clubs and decided we wanted to start a club.”
Ten years later, the club has 41 members and a pretty cool set up. All thanks to a couple of big donations.
“We got actually $56,000 worth of train inventory,” Blazena said.
And a labor of love by its members.
This display was made to replicate what the Brainerd Lakes area was like in the early 1900s, when logging and mining were king.
“The logging industry that started in 1906 and then mining started in about 1913,” Blazena said. “Most of the buildings were scratch built from 100-year-old photographs.”
This museum gets about 4,000 visitors a year. While the adults seem to enjoy the history of the tracks, the kids like things a little more interactive.
The club also gives visitors a chance to win a train set of their own. This is the one being raffled off this year, hand built by club members.
Just $5 gets you entered to win, money that all goes back to keeping these trains running.
The museum and the club is a non-profit, so it is run strictly by volunteers and donations. It does not cost anything to go and check out the trains, but they do ask you leave a donation if you are able.
The museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.