ST. GEORGE — There’s no derailing the fun at this year’s model railroad tour.

M. Dave Merrill’s railroad takes up the entire upstairs of his home in St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Step back and let these local train enthusiasts be your conductor at the Color Country Model Railroad Club’s Annual Layout Tour. The event begins Friday, Nov. 10, and runs through Monday, Nov. 13. During the open house, visitors will have the opportunity to witness different scales of model railroads ranging from the smallest scale – the “N” Scale – to the largest “G” Scale or Garden Railroads.

This year’s tour will feature 21 railroads from Coral Canyon to Ivins. Railroads are also located in central St. George and Sunriver.

Color Country Railroad Club members open their homes and yards to the public. Some railroads wind through garages and train-designated indoor rooms, while others feature entire backyards turned into detailed railroad scenes. Outdoor scenes include plants trimmed to look like trees along with lakes, rivers, bridges and more.

And the best part? You can see it all for free.

M. Dave Merrill stands next to his railroad room in St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Larry Schneider, vice president of the G scale group and club treasurer for the Color Country Model Railroad Club, said this year’s lineup includes large RV garages with several operating railroads of multiple scales.

Club members also built an oil-themed railroad, which will be donated and auctioned for charity at the upcoming Jubilee of Trees. A partially built railroad will be for sale to the public, with the option for the purchaser to either finish it themselves or have the club complete and deliver it at a later date.

M. Dave Merrill has been a part of the Color Country Railroad club since its beginning and was the club’s second president for eight years. He built his first boxcar when he was 16. That boxcar, along with locomotives he received for his 40th birthday – almost 45 years ago – is included in his HO Scale railroad setup today.

“It’s a wonderful, creative hobby,” Merrill said. “I love all aspects of it. It has all kinds of different things from carpentry to model building to 3D art.”

A scene from M. Dave Merrill’s train features accurately-scaled lumber, St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Merrill, a college professor of 60 years, found himself going through a particularly frustrating time in his career in 2009. He considered quitting but instead took two weeks off and began to build the benchwork for his latest railroad.

Because he used it as an escape from a terrible situation, he named it “Ascape Tennsion,” (intentionally misspelled) and then added “Sulphur Gulch.”

The railroad with steam engines is set in the fictional town of Clearlake in 1937. Scenes within the railroad include a butcher shop, slaughterhouse,cattle ranch, handmade trees and mountains, a grain elevator and feed store, kit-built and scratch-built buildings and more. The features buildings that actually existed in the Old West. 

When Merrill and his wife designed their St. George home, they built an upstairs specifically for the train display. The backdrop behind the tracks features Merrill’s own panoramic photos of mountains printed on vinyl, cut and glued onto a blue sky.

“When the kids come, they always ask how fast they can go,” he said about the trains. “And I always tell them, if it’s a really good model railroad, the question is, how slow can they go?”

Bob Mallory stands next to his Lionel O Scale railroad in St. George, Utah, Oct. 25, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

His favorite part about creating the railroad is the fine details. From lumber that has been exactly scale-sized to real two-by-fours, to images of apples and pears scaled down to fit on tiny fruit boxes, he loves it all.

Bob Mallory, the creator of a Lionel O Scale railroad, said he got his first train when he was 9 years old. He put his love for trains on hold when he served in the Navy for eight years and picked the hobby back up at the age of 40. 

He began building his fifth and current railroad in 2005. The display is built on wheels, allowing it to move freely. The railroad is located in his home garage and features three different levels of track and five running trains.

“This has been a labor of love,” Mallory said. “And each year the board kind of changes. The yard changes, the guys move. It’s just a lot of fun.”

His intricate display is split into two scenes, with half the railroad featuring a winter wonderland. Scenes include moving ice skaters, a waterfall, a river, a construction yard, tunnels, bridges and Santa Claus flying around a chimney with his reindeer.

Last year, Mallory said over 90 people visited his railroad during the Layout Tour and he looks forward to seeing everyone this year.

About Color Country Railroad Club of St. George

Schneider said when the club was formed in 2001, membership was comprised mainly of HO scale modelers. Over the years, the membership has grown to include the “G” scale, “O” scale, Proto:48, Lionel, “S” scale (American Flyer) and “N” scale enthusiasts. A separate group for each scale has been established to represent the club’s varied interests in model railroading.

Bob Mallory’s Lionel O Scale railroad features a winter scene, St. George, Utah, Oct. 25, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Their affiliation with the National Model Railroad Association began in 2008 with the formation of the Southern Utah Division — Rocky Mountain Region. The club has built and contributed train layouts to the Jubilee of Trees for several years. Additionally, they’ve built and installed trains at the Veterans Home in Ivins, the St George Regional Hospital pediatric ward and the St George Children’s Museum.

“This is a really fun hobby,” Schneider said. “You learn to be a builder, electrical contractor, mechanical engineer, landscape designer and many other skills all while having fun. We are always looking for new members and welcome your questions.”

For more information, visit the club’s website. See the printable schedule here.

Event details

What: Color Country Model Railroad Club’s Annual Layout Tour
When: Friday, Nov. 10, through Monday, Nov. 13. Times vary.
Where: Locations vary across Washington County
For more information see their website.

Photo Gallery

M. Dave Merrill’s railroad features large mountains he hand-created, St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

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