All aboard the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot for a weekend of model trains and family fun.
The depot is hosting its annual Open House Train Show this weekend, with doors open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. today and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday. The event is free, with light refreshments available.
Charles Van Heule, depot board member and rentals coordinator, said the depot continues to host the event each year to encourage the community to see and tour the building, learn the history and see the operating model railroad layouts.
“It’s our way of saying thank you for all of the support that the community gives us,” Van Heule said.
The depot will have N Scale and O Scale model trains available for viewing and a children’s area with trains to play with.
Many of the model layouts include handmade details like bridges, animals, and houses. There is even a model of the Ames Monument near one of the tracks.
Stuart Guarnieri and the Colorado-Wyoming Lego Users Group will be building a giant Lego model for the seventh year in a row; the total layout, made entirely of Lego, will measure 18 feet by 18 feet with buildings reaching over 3 feet tall.
The Lego layout will feature interactive components, Van Heule said, like “a carnival where if you press a button, it will activate the rides” and a scavenger hunt to find different Lego Minifigures around the display.
“They hide them really well, so it takes you a long time to get through,” Van Heule said. “The way it plays off the public and makes them participate is fantastic.”
More than just enjoying the model trains, the depot hosts the open house to celebrate the community that has supported it since its early days as one of the biggest employers in the city; At the height of World War II, Van Heule said, more people were employed at the railroad than attended the University of Wyoming.
Promoting railroad history is important, he said, because the railroad is “is why Laramie is here.”
“We like to be able to keep people focused that the railroad is still a very large part of Wyoming,” Van Heule said. “This building was very important to the city from 1924 until the end of passenger service here in the late '90s.”
The event has grown tremendously in the 10-plus years the depot has hosted it. Van Heule said they started with just two model layouts, an HO Scale layout and an N Scale layout, before linking with Guarnieri and the Colorado-Wyoming Lego Users Group seven years ago to incorporate the Lego models.
Now, it sees around 1,000 visitors over the weekend.
“A couple of years ago we maxed out I think at over 1,300 visitors over the course of two days,” Van Heule said. “It’s a lot of work for our volunteers, but we have so much fun and really enjoy it.”