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Group in Skagit Valley shares a love of model trains

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In this Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, photo, Steve McCartt holds one of his N scale train engines during an open house at the Whatcom Skagit Model Railroad Club&#039;s headquarters in Alger, Wash.
In this Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, photo, Steve McCartt holds one of his N scale train engines during an open house at the Whatcom Skagit Model Railroad Club's headquarters in Alger, Wash. (Scott Terrell/Skagit Valley Herald via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT (Photos by Scott Terrell/Skagit Valley Herald) Photo Gallery

ALGER — In an old schoolhouse off Old Highway 99, about 30 people meet weekly to share their passion: model trains.

The Whatcom Skagit Model Railroad Club acquired the building in 2004 and has since filled the room with miniature hills, towns and, of course, trains.

Don Jones has been a member of the club for about 20 years. When the club lost its lease in Bellingham and moved to Alger, Jones was part of the crew that rebuilt everything in the club’s new home.

The club has two different scales of track for a total of about 1,000 feet, Jones said, and it took the club about six months to lay it all. The scenery, on the other hand, is an ongoing project, he said.

One track is reminiscent of nearby cities, such as Mount Vernon, Burlington and Bellingham, while the other is strictly fictional.

Jones has worked extensively over the years on crafting the cliffs, fields and towns. So much has been added that it’s now difficult to fit two people in the narrow walkways between sets.

“All this started from an empty room,” he said.

Many of those at a recent open house were introduced to model trains as kids.

“When I was a little boy, my grandfather in Tennessee had a big set up, and I’d come every year and run it,” said Steve McCartt of Sedro-Woolley.

McCartt left the hobby behind as he got older, but his interest was rekindled when he found trains at a garage sale a few years ago. He joined the club in July 2014, and has been a regular ever since.

With his iPhone, McCartt was able to control the speed, lights and other features of his train because the whole set-up is hooked into the building’s Wi-Fi network, a process that Jones called “an electrical nightmare.”

McCartt teaches videography at Sedro-Woolley High School, and sometimes makes videos of the model trains.

“It’s tricky,” he said. “The goal is to get the right camera angles … to make everything look realistic.”

McCartt has been talking to the club about bringing a group of students in to try their hand at making a video, and he hopes he’ll be able to do it soon.

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