As a member of the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society and a volunteer docent at the California State Railroad Museum, I feel I must comment on the win in the courts by the Napa Expo Board over the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society. A board not elected but appointed by the Governor.
The exhibit built over 50 years can now be removed (per master plan) to clear more land at the Expo fairgrounds. I actually heard a comment made “It’s just a bunch of old men running trains!”. They must have never visited the exhibit, because that is so far from what the society provided to the community.
Who are the real losers? The Napa community. As a docent at the California State Railroad Museum, I get to interpret the railroad equipment, people and history that built the state of California and our country. At the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society exhibit, our visitors got to see the trains from history and trains from today actually running through a wonderfully detailed work of art. Many years of work went into the quality scenery and detail that were presented in the exhibit by the society.
We also exhibited historical artifacts from the trains that ran through the Napa Valley. It was a place that a family could visit for no charge and enjoy the amazing world of trains. We were open on Friday nights, during the Town and Country Fair, during the Christmas gift shows, and had an open house one Saturday a month. There were many community groups that would schedule a visit to the exhibit for their members. We were even available to give talks about the history of the trains that ran in the Napa valley. We would answer many questions people had about the trains and the influence they had in the valley. We even had a “Can you find it?“ game for visitors, if they found all the items they received a little prize. The prizes were provided by a railroad safety group called “Operation Lifesaver.”
I am a volunteer for this group, and we provide information to the public on being safe around railroads. One item I liked to stress was “The Blue Sign” that could save a life.
The original method for running trains at the exhibit was a dial up phone system adapted to allow up to four trains to run on the mainline and separate controls for the sidings. In 2010 that system was replaced by a digital computer system that gave each operator the ability to walk around and run their own train on the whole layout. This gave us the ability to let visitors at our open house to experience running trains on the layout.
Many generations of Napa residents and many visitors will have fond memories of the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society and many future generations have been robbed of those memories. One of my fond memories was during the fair a few years ago, when a young boy was pulling his moms arm toward the exhibit saying “come on mom this is where the trains are, and where Gary lives.”
So is that how you measure your win? Now the Expo board can live with it.