While this may be a little after the fact, I feel compelled to share that on July 25, I had the distinct displeasure of attending the Napa Valley Exposition board meeting, in which the matter and disposition of the yearly lease renewal for the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society was to be decided. The current lease expires in December of 2017, and the Society has been in its current location since 1970 at the Fairgrounds, the club having been founded in 1955.

I mention my displeasure at the odious and obviously predetermined outcome, to which was given disingenuous consideration of the Society's plight. The agenda of the board meeting was released only days before, without any ample notification to the public, in an obvious attempt to railroad the Society out of the Expo facility without opposition. As it was, the board was surprised with the attendance of an out of the ordinary attendance by the public, in opposition to the board's plans.

The Railroad Society is tucked away in a corner/edge of the grounds, out of the way, and has constructed an HO scale model layout nearly 50 years in the making, depicting a model rendition of Napa north through Lake County, depicting a historical perspective from 1940 to present.

Although not an exact representation, it features 1,500 feet of track, with amazing and professionally constructed diorama for the viewing pleasure of young and old, the culmination of 47 years of work building the layout. The layout has been a free attraction for each Town & Country Fair, and many other events such as monthly free to the public viewings, and hosting clubs from Boy Scouts to senior outings, operated all by time donated by Society membership.

It is a popular and venerable attraction where many thousands of individuals have marveled at the fully functional trains and tracks of the 4,600-foot layout filling an L-shaped room. The layout was assembled on location as an impressive single unit, and was built over the years, never intended to be taken apart.

As such, relocation would by necessity encompass considerable destruction of the layout.

The organization is an established conduit to the community, offering good clean fun, dedicated to providing a welcoming environment where not only disciplines in railroad operating practices, miniaturization, electrical engineering, computer programming, mechanical engineering, landscape artistry, but also a connection to the importance of the railroad to America's past and present, shared with the public in a multi-generational setting.

The plight has to do with the Society operating in a virtual nonprofit capacity, never having charged a dollar to the thousands upon thousands of people who have attended the attraction over the decades, to the benefit of the  fair and Expo.

Now, the Expo board has a “Master Plan” for future modernization, and without funding to accomplish this vision, nor any proposed better use or immediate need for the space the Railroad Society occupies.

Under the guise of the recent Napa Valley earthquake, which the older Society structure rode though like a champ, much better even than newer structures, there is sudden concern for the safety of the building. The board, with the exception of only two members who at least considered offering a one-year lease renewal, so that the Society could have ample time for planning a new future, otherwise unanimously offered placation, implicit ignorance, and lack of appreciation for the society's value over 47 years as a free attraction each fair.

They apparently have never even looked at the layout, have no idea of the impossibility of merely disassembling the layout, and moving it elsewhere, nor consideration that because the Society has offered their services free of charge for nearly five decades, has no funds to conduct such a move, nor with five months remaining on the lease, time to prepare and generate funding for such.

The board acts and talks as though the Society can just find a new location and pick up and move. As it stands, the board today by voting not to renew the lease, voted the possible death knell of the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society.

Thanks for the memories, and for providing free entertainment to the attending public of the Expo events for 47 years. But you're not in our future plans, so don't let the door hit your behind on the way out.

Tom Eichler


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