December 14, 2004
When 1 track closes, another opens,
train club discovers
Chatham, 7, of Hernando peered through the Plexiglass with a giddy
look of wonder. "Whooo-oooooo!" she said, supplying the sound
effects as the small train looped around, eye-level, at the
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum.
Elementary School students (from left) Ashley Killebrew, 8,
Madison York, 7, Annie Whitfield, 8, Ali Chatham, 7, and
Ashley's brother, Bryan Killebrew, 9, stop to marvel at a
model train exhibit at the Mississippi Agriculture and
Forestry Museum in Jackson Thursday.
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, 1150
Lakeland Drive in Jackson, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Monday-Saturday. Admission is $4 adults, $3 seniors, $2
ages 6-18, 50 cents ages 5 and under.
Call: (601) 713-3365.
At the Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History,
model trains — including customized versions of the
Panama Limited and the Rebel — travel through Possum
Ridge, a model town typical of Mississippi railroad
towns in the 1940s, running daily through Dec. 31.
Admission is free.
"Look at those
tiny people," she marveled to her friend, adding in sing-song,
"Tiny, tiny, tiny tiny."
She's right. The people — all 562 of
them — stand no taller than thumbnails. Dogs, ducks, chickens are
A closer look reveals
the mother hanging out the wash, the man washing windows, the
pig-tailed girl in the swing, and workers loading cotton, produce,
lumber and livestock into the miniature boxcars.
Tiny, too —
relatively speaking — is this 4-by-8-foot layout.
It's a fraction of what the Jackson Society of Model Engineers
had at its former location at Metrocenter mall. And club members
estimate it's only 1 percent of what they intend to gradually build
at their display's new home.
JSME had to dismantle its
three-train, 2,800-square-foot display at Metrocenter when the mall
needed to work on that space for leasing, the club didn't want a
smaller location and general policies changed.
In its eight
years at Metrocenter, it raised $80,000 for the Mississippi
Children's Home Society, through door proceeds. Previous displays
were at Northpark mall for five years, Deposit Guaranty Bank in the
1980s and before that, the Central Fire Station, with club's roots
tracing back to the 1950s, officers say.
When one track closes, another opens.
The train club found
a new home and a bigger horizon at the ag museum, which kicks its
display and outreach up a considerable notch. Members salvaged as
much as they could from the display, and plan to rebuild to reflect
the history of agriculture and commerce in Mississippi, and the
railroad's importance in that growth.
That makes it a natural fit for the museum. "The railroad era was
dramatic, and probably did more for Mississippi than any other
transportation, in moving supplies — not only agricultural, but
commercial," museum director Charlie Dixon said.
before automobiles, and highways weren't anything but mud, really,"
club president Dr. Bill Sistrunk said.
state's topography, "We won't have as many mountains and waterfalls.
..." he said, chuckling. What they will have is a charming engine
for education, particularly for children.
This partnership also ushers in opportunities to expand the
museum's railroad focus, with artifacts and displays on railroad
About 6,000 to 8,000 people each year saw the holiday
train display, November to early January each year, at the mall. At
the museum, there's a potential to reach more than 100,000,
"To me, this is the next generation," club secretary/treasurer
Jackie Meck said. "I don't know how many years Charlie can give ..."
he turned to the director. "Can I have 50?"
HO-scale exhibit in the museum's main building depicts small-town
Mississippi circa 1940s-'50s transporting agricultural produce by
railroad. It's owned by longtime train club member Marion Elliott,
and the entire club worked on it for weeks before it went on display
last month. It's just a teaser.
It'll take about a year and a
half to rebuild a permanent exhibit, either in the main building or
an adjacent space, depending on funding. Keep up with the progress
As Meck can't resist saying, exciting things are coming down the
Contact Staff Writer Sherry Lucas at (601) 961-7283 or e-mail
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