Model train enthusiasts derailed by eviction
In an unassuming warehouse in Griffintown, train model enthusiasts have spend decades laying thousands of scale kilometers of track and miniature landmarks to painstakingly – yet loving – create an elaborate model railway.
But soon, the train's tiny wheels will be ground to a halt, because the site is about to be demolished..
The Montreal Railroad Modelers' Association is being kicked out of their location at 891 St. Paul St. West, conveniently found below the railway viaduct serving Central Station.
The building belongs to Canadian National Railway, who offered train enthusiasts a break on rent to run their fantasy railroad 38 years ago after the original building – the basement of a 48-unit apartment building in downtown Montreal – was sold.
CN now wants to lease their space to a tenant at a rent hike, giving the modelers until November 2012 to find a new space.
Trouble is, they can't move the intricate layout.
The track consists of 4,500 scale kilometers of track, designed with elements stretching from the Georgian Bay in the west to Mont-Joli in the east. It also features landmarks like British Columbia's Stoney Creek Ridge, typical east-end homes in Montreal and a train station patterned on Montreal's Windsor Station.
"Most of it will have to be destroyed, because we cannot move it," said Pierre Lalanne, president of the club.
While the buildings, ships and scale figures can be preserved, much of the miniaturized landscape will end up as landfill, and the enthusiasts will be forced to start from scratch.
Hills, sculpted from plaster, are too fragile to move. The waterfall and rocks will have to go too.
"It's hard to take, because that… cost us a lot of money and a lot of time to build. It's completely finished," said modeler Yves Cloutier.
Club members approached CN to discuss whether the railway would help find them a suitable location, but were ignored, say members.
"They were approached - a letter was sent - but so far we didn't get any answer from them," said Cloutier.
The model railway won't survive a new locale, though, said model train enthusiast Pierre Legault.
"To get this size (warehouse), is just about impossible, to find just the space in the Montreal area," he said. "Once this is gone, that's it, it's finished and it'll be a sad day."