A Look Back Down the Line: The History of the Lionel Train Room

            As many people are aware, the Moore Museum Train Room got its start as the result of a donation. A local business man acquired 2 toy train layouts that were originally built by the Lionel company as promotional displays. During their first working life they traveled to different venues as an attraction to help sell toy trains. The large layout features trains of 3 different sizes: S scale on top, O scale in the middle and G scale at the bottom. The small layout has 2 circuits of O scale track, one of which is set up as a figure 8.

            By the time the layouts arrived at Moore Museum they were pretty run down and in need of a lot of cosmetic restoration. Nevertheless, the public was given a sneak preview of the brand new train room with its 2 layouts in their original condition during the 2012 Heritage Day (Sunday June 24, 2012).

            The reconditioning of the layouts began in earnest over the winter of 2012/13. The Grand Opening of the Train Room took place on Sunday June 23, 2013, at the same time that Moore Museum’s new General Store was unveiled. The turnout on the first day was all we could have hoped for...standing room only!

            Since its inception, we have generally added at least one significant feature each year, while constantly changing and upgrading the trains themselves. This has been greatly aided by the generous donations we receive from time to time of trains in need of a new home.

            As a special Museum event each year, usually on the first or second Sunday in July, the day is set aside as Model Train Day. On these occasions, we invite guest modelers to the museum with portable layouts to augment our displays. On Train Day, the train room is also set up so visitors can enjoy hands-on control of some of the trains. Train Day has proven very popular, drawing as many as 280 guests during the 3 hour time period that it is open.


Here’s a quick look back at how the train room has changed and grown over the years:


2012 (Unofficial Preview) - The two layouts were presented with the trains running, but no work had yet been done on freshening up the scenery. The original scenery on the large layout was made from paper mache over a wooden frame. Wear and tear over the years had resulted in numerous holes in the vertical cliff walls. The scenic base of the small layout was made from styrofoam, so there were no holes. However there were numerous trees made from natural plant material. These had dried out and were dropping their ‘leaves’ at an alarming rate.

2013-Grand Opening - In preparation for the launch the holes were filled on the large layout. On the small layout, the St. Clair Drive-in movie theater was completely rebuilt. The old trees were removed,  the bridges were painted, a wooden tunnel mouth was installed and the red ground by the adjacent to mountain was replaced with real dirt. A log loading scene was built in the valley.

In 2014 scenery upgrades continued. The photo shows a close up image of train track and platform.

2015 - The year of the Overhead Railway. This massive project was very much a team effort both for the construction of the supporting structures and their installation. We run 2 ovals of 3 rail O scale track up there. For safety reasons, we run the Overhead only when a volunteer is present. The 2015 season also featured a static On 30 module set up beside the control booth.

2015 saw two big upgrades to the wall décor of the room. First was the creation of the custom painted back scene for the small layout. If you look at it carefully, you will see a number of Moore Museum buildings cleverly incorporated into the composition. Our first collection of Lionel tin advertising signs were mounted on the north wall of the train room providing the second wall upgrade of 2015.

2016 - Up to this time the top of the large layout was an open space. By covering over the space we were able to extend the scenery into the middle of the S scale oval. The valley scene of the small layout featured an ore dump diorama in 2016.


In 2017 the Vimy Park replaced the drive in theatre model in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This is an N scale model. The S scale scene was also changed to an oil depot in this year.

2018 - Acquisition of several scratch built buildings by Don Eastman (Master Model Railroader) made possible the development of a fine scale module for the 2018 season. This display showcases 2 rail O scale and exquisitely detailed structures, with the bonus of a narrow gauge line. We may use this module in the future as the nucleus for a larger layout. Stay tuned.

Picture of the buildings built by Don Eastman installed in the model exhibit

2019 -  Plans for the 2019 season called for a maximum effort on the part of the volunteers. It was decided to create more space for the Train Room, so our intrepid crew moved the east wall 6 feet out! The extra space allowed the inclusion of 2 more layouts: a small 2’x4’ N scale layout and a larger O scale Flat Top layout measuring 10’ x8’. With the time taken for all the construction, there wasn’t time to do a full scenery job on the O scale layout so we used indoor/outdoor grassy type carpet as a scenic underlay for the entire display.

We tried a new feature outdoors on Model Train Day in 2019.  Laying out ovals of G scale track on the platform of Mooretown Station allowed us to run 2 trains outside all day. The outdoor trains were quite popular with our guests.

Photo of one of the new models inside the train room, and the model train that ran outside the train station during the model train event.

N scale layout which was added in 2019

2020/21 - The pandemic meant that the train room was closed, but it also allowed a refocus which let us concentrate work on new trains and model buildings at home. As a result, when the museum reopens we will have biggest roster of new models for the public to enjoy since we started in 2013.


We like to tell guests that we have 2 goals in the Train Room:

1) to showcase the hobby of model/toy trains and

2) to have FUN!

Considering the depth and breadth of the Model Railroading hobby there is huge potential for further development of the of these exciting displays. One might even say we are just getting started.

See you in the Train Room.


For more pictures of the train room click on the link for Model Train Day on our home page.