MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – From passenger trains to freight trains, for more than 80 years the Twin City Model Railroad Museum in St. Paul has been a destination for train enthusiasts.

Brandon Jutz is one of 100 members and volunteers who bring this museum to life. His grandfather was a member and began taking him here when he was a kid.

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“The big layout behind me started construction in 1984. It’s not done yet,” said Jutz. “In a world of this scale, there’s always work to be done. Adding new buildings, landscaping, and of course, laying down railroad after railroad.”

Since 1934, the Twin City Model Railroad Museum has been asking visitors to leave the outside world behind, and enjoy what they’ve created inside.

“The hobby got real big after World War II, and that’s where a lot of our older generations have those memories” said Jutz. “And so for those younger generations to kind of see what their grandparents experienced is a lot of fun.”

There are Marx, Lionel, American Flyer and even Lego train sets of all shapes and sizes. The mainline track is 220-feet long. Some of the trains cover four miles a week.

(credit: CBS)

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Of course, the entire operation might just go off the rails — if it wasn’t for the “Train Doctor.” Peter Southard’s background as a resourceful Iowa farm kid got him the job of train doctor. He fixes model trains from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. He can spend hours cleaning and re-wiring, and he’s able to save about 90% of his patients, so to speak. Those he can’t get back on track become organ donors, their parts used to make the rest of the operation go.

“It’s kind of a passion. I enjoy working with my hands,” said Southard. “This is all art. It’s craftsmanship, it’s history, it’s a little bit of everything all tied together.”

That’s the train of thought that many of the volunteers have. The hope is that the tracks left behind help connect the past, present and future.

“It’s multi-generational, so we have third, fourth, fifth generations of families that are here keeping these trains running, keeping these stories going,” said Jutz.

The museum has had restricted hours during COVID, but is looking to expand the hours and days they are open in the near future.

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They will also be part of a model train exhibit at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in July.

John Lauritsen