It comes rumbling down the tracks every year, puffing smoke, with all the bells and whistles, as the holidays near.
It’s not The Polar Express — it’s on a much bigger scale (HO and others, in fact) than that.
The Kanawha Valley Railroad Association’s perennially popular, annual Christmas model train open house opens this weekend at Coonskin Park in Charleston. It will continue chugging along through December up to the week of Christmas at the KVRA clubhouse, 1750 Coonskin Park Drive.
Hours of operation this Thanksgiving weekend will be 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, and Saturday, Nov. 30 and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1.
Other operating hours will be 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, Dec. 5, 12 and 19; 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays, Dec. 6, 13 and 20; 3 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 21; and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 8, 15 and 22.
To get to the open house, follow the main road through Coonskin Park to the end (additional directions are listed below). KVRA Treasurer Richard Boyd said the open house corresponds with the Coonskin’s yearly holiday light cavalcade, but “the park has cut back on their light display. The lights will now end well before where our clubhouse is and there will also be a turnaround there.”
Admission to the open house and parking are free.
The KVRA was organized formally in 1977 and has maintained its Coonskin headquarters, filled with member-created displays, many paying homage to West Virginia landmarks and landscapes in miniature, since 1998.
Boyd, a Mink Shoals resident, has been a member of the group for the past seven years, joined by nearly three dozen fellow railroad and model railroad buffs at present.
“We have very active members from Elkview, Clendenin, Pratt, around Eleanor or Red House,” he said, enumerating a few. “We probably have about 35 members.”
Boyd said this year’s holiday open house will feature three operating layouts, two in the HO scale and one in the N scale.
“A visitor can probably expect eight or nine trains between the three layouts running at any one time,” he said.
The open house will also feature scavenger hunts for children (and adults) in attendance. They can seek items adorning the model train layouts such as an airplane, flag, kayak, merry-go-round, moonshine still and a fisherman. Those who locate the items on the layouts can turn in their sheets at the front desk at the KVRA clubhouse and receive a sticker for their achievement.
The KVRA clubhouse is also open on most Sundays from 1 until 5 p.m throughout the year for members and visitors. To get there, from Charleston, take the Mink Shoals exit (Exit 1) of Interstate 79 and turn right onto U.S. 119 toward Elkview. Go 7/10 mile and turn right into Coonskin Park. The KVRA clubhouse is approximately 6/10 mile from the park entrance.
For more information about the event and the nonprofit organization, including membership applications, visit www.kvrailroad.org, direct email correspondence to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-343-0940.
The KVRA will participate in the Kanawha Valley Model Train and Craft Show on Feb. 22 and 23. Prospective vendors and others can find out more at the website above.