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Morning Sun
  • 35th anniversary for Pittsburg Model Railroad Club

  • The Pittsburg Model Railroad Club 35th anniversary show at Meadowbrook Mall, featuring a working model train layout, videos and Operation Lifesaver, is such a success that there probably will be a 36th anniversary.

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  • The Pittsburg Model Railroad Club 35th anniversary show at Meadowbrook Mall, featuring a working model train layout, videos and Operation Lifesaver, is such a success that there probably will be a 36th anniversary.
    The show started Saturday and will continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
    “This is the biggest show we’ve had in three years,” said longtime member L.D. Feagins, Redfield, who admitted he’d had a twinge of doubt about the club’s future.
    He explained that the non-profit group’s major source of income is selling tables to vendors at the shows, though the group also accepts donations.
    “We only had two or three vendors last year,” Feagins said.
    This year there are about 12 vendors, and he credits member Nicolas Ybarra, Joplin, with that.
    “Nick might not like me saying this, but he was out there putting out flyers, and if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have all these vendors,” Feagins said.
    Other club members also work on the show, including Bill and Norma Feagins, Pittsburg, who coordinated the tables. All are volunteers.
    “It’s a lot of work, but then you come here and see the kids, see their faces light up when they see the model trains, and you forget all your problems,” Ybarra said.
    Feagins agrees with that.
    “What it’s all about is the kids,” he said. “We get a kick out of watching them.”
    Of course, there’s no law saying that folks in their seventh or eighth decade can’t be kids, too.
    “These trains are expensive toys,” Bill Feagins said.
    There are three tracks of trains running, along with train videos for youngsters and adults and Operation Lifesaver, with Norbert Angell, Kansas City, handing out information on railroad safety.
    Club members were eager to have the organization at the show.
    “In Joplin, where I live, I see so many people, including teens, walking on the railroad tracks,” Ybarra said. “Sometimes when I stop at a railroad crossing that has its bars down, cars go past me and drive between the bars. This is all so dangerous and also illegal.”
    Angell said that Operation Lifesaver is an educational program that conductors, engineers and some brakemen put together in 1972 in Idaho after there had been several incidents.
    “We’re all volunteers, and we put on railroad safety presentations for civic organizations and groups,” he said. “Union Pacific in Kansas City gave me a living for 38 years, and the least I can do is give back to the public.”
    Angell came to town Friday and presented driver education programs at Northeast High School and Frontenac High School.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I also come down here once a month and teach a class at Johnny Varsolona’s driving school,” he said.
    Angell has investigated several train accidents and knows all too well what can happen when trains and people collide.
    “I think the worst thing I ever saw involved a little 5-year-old boy on a railroad trestle,” he said. “He had no where to go. The engineer started emergency measures as soon as he saw the boy, but he couldn’t stop in time.”
    The fact  is, by the time a locomotive engineer sees a person or vehicle on the train tracks, it is already too late to stop in time to avoid a  collision. Another fact is that any approaching train is always closer and moving faster than the observer realizes.
    “There are always warning signs that a railroad crossing is ahead, and drivers should always be prepared to stop at them,” Angell said. “I tell people they need to look both ways twice, not just once. Because of the train’s size, many people may not think it’s coming up on them very fast. When you look away, then look back, it gives you a better idea of how close and how fast it is. Look, listen and live.”

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