One summer experience that you might want to take in this year is Portage la Prairie's CP Railway Train Station.

A special Train Day occurred recently at the Canadian Pacific Railway Heritage Park & Interpretive Centre site on 3rd St NE in Portage la Prairie. Malcolm Stanley is a member of the Portage Model Railroad Club and has been a part since it began.

Malcolm StanleyMalcolm Stanley

"A lot of the things in here, I actually made up. There's one set-up that comes apart now, but it was made so it'll come apart and go together again," says Stanley. "It's to take it to different events. We've got other ones and I made all those bases for that one, too."

He notes the Portage Model Railway Club gathers at the station weekly, on Mondays. 

Club President Samuel Reichelt says they traditionally call it the day Train Day but it was also their open house. 

"It's to drum up support from the public, anyone who wants to join, or just know that we're here, as well as raising money for the station"

He notes space can be rented at the old train station, with an upper level they use for their club gatherings. 

"We're at about 20 members on the roster, although, granted, there's the 10 or so which is the core group that's here very often. We will go to the Carman Fair with our N Scale layout and Threshermen's Reunion has asked us to bring our mobile HO unit to Austin. That's why we have it disassembled right now as we just saw it as a lot of work to put it back up, just to have to take it back down again in a month."

Malcolm Stanley notes a kitchen was added to the facility in the past year where they can now give tea and cookies and warm up some food items.

Stanley says he's been in the club for 15 years and, before that, some gathered for at least five years when they organized the club. 

"It was mainly another fellow and myself who saw it right up through. We had to take all the offices out of here and there was a women's room where no smoking was allowed, and smoking in another for men. We gradually got everything renovated. The walls are all done and then we did the floor. The Heritage Group has had the building since about 2003 because it burned in October 2002. It almost went completely but it's a brick building. Portage Model Railway Club and the Heritage Group have worked together to get things done."

Reichelt explains the technology and its advancement in the model railway genre is fascinating and notes that cell phones can now control the trains.

"We're running Digital Command Control (DCC). Each one of the locomotives has a chip in it, so that we can control each locomotive individually. We went away from the old DC setup where you just turn the knob and it puts more power on the track to an AC signal that is modulated to communicate with the locomotives. So, there's a command station that we happen to use -  a brand called Digitrax. There are many brands and then we have an adapter to hook it up to a computer, so that we can use our phones as throttles instead of using the Digitrax throttles, which can be sometimes problematic. Our throttles are older throttles and the newer ones, I haven't played with yet, but they're supposed to be better."

Samuel ReicheltSamuel Reichelt

He notes everyone has a cell phone in their pockets nowadays, which means everyone can have a throttle so long as they connect to the computer. 

"It works out well. There's a lot you can do there with the locomotives. Most of our units have sound. You don't have to. It's more budget-friendly if you don't get sound, but it's so much nicer to have sound. It is a thing that we do. You have to be here because it's Wi-Fi-Based. We don't have actual internet here in the building at the time."

Reichelt says, theoretically, you could run it remotely with a little bit of tech setup. A panel sits amidst a very large set of tables with tracks and scenery for the trains to travel through. 

"Our panel in the centre is our yard panel. It controls all the turnouts in the yard. It also controls power on the track so that when you park something, you can shut the track power off, and it's not taking anything; then it can be quiet. Some days, you just don't want to hear stuff that isn't running. So, it has a bunch of toggle switches that control the turnouts and they have an LED that indicates what direction the turnout is facing, as well as toggle switches to turn on and off track power in most of the tracks," adds Reichelt. 

He notes you can't select all of the switches from the panel, and a couple of the tracks are always powered. 

Tyson Bichette Spence joined this club because he loves model railroading, and came on board last year as their newest member.

"I knew nothing about this. I was into trains my whole life. I've always played with the wooden ones that you push on a table. I turned 13 two years ago, and then I was asking my mom if I can get a job, eventually. I've been working there for a year and a half, I've been paying for most of this stuff on my own. I never knew what DCC or DC was. I brought in a DC locomotive one day and and they told me that I couldn't run it on here. I was so confused. And then when I started working, paid for all this. Now I have a lot of it. I've been a part of this club for almost a year and a half. I enjoy doing this. It's really fun."

TysonTyson Bichette Spence

Kate MacDonald came with her two children, one of whom is three years old who loved playing with the wooden train sets on the floor.

"Dalton is a big train fanatic. He loves trains. He was actually Thomas the Train for Halloween last year. It was great. We're still here after all this time still hanging out and he's a toddler. Time can be a bit of a factor, but he is still here. We're all enjoying it, and lots of friendly people. It's nice to see people in the community; everybody just coming together for something in Portage because it's nice for families."

Kathy MacDonaldKate MacDonald