Heart of Louisiana: All Aboard!

Jackson -- It's a hobby that collectively is costing a small group of men tens of thousands of dollars.  And in most cases, their wives are glad they're taking not doing it at home.  Members of the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroad Club have built an elaborate collection of tracks, trains and fascinating scenery.  The best part is, they enjoy sharing their passion with anyone who wants to make the drive to small town of Jackson in East Feliciana Parish.

There is a lot of history in the town of Jackson, Louisiana.  It's been around for almost 200 years, it's named after Andrew Jackson, and it's the site of the "College of Louisiana", founded in 1825.  There used to be a railroad line to the town.  Now, the only trains that run here are at the Model Railroad Museum.

With a boiler full of water and gas, and the flick of a lighter, a miniature steam locomotive comes to life.  And when the pressure rises to near 60 pounds, the show begins.

"Some people like to run electric trains that look like steam engines," said Ted Powell.  "I just like to run steam engines that look like steam engines.  And I like the real things with the bells and whistles."

Powell started playing with trains when he was five years old.  So did Bob Schilling.

"I think it's when you're young and you see that train, and you wonder what makes this big thing go down the tracks," Schilling said.  "And then when you see the model trains, you kind of bridge back into what is real and what isn't real.  That seems to stir the imagination."

You see it everytime a child gets near the miniature tracks.

"One of the rewards for me being here is we get visitors all the time," said Robert Coon, "and it's fascinating to see the kids' eyes light up."

From the smallest rails to the largest outdoor garden trains, the longer you stare, the more it fascinates. 

The Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroad Club moved its operations to the town of Jackson more than a decade ago, and the tracks keep growing in length and growing in detail.

The club is starting on its tenth layout.  This is going to be their largest one yet, with three levels of tracks.  It's enough work to keep these guys busy for the next year.

The design starts with sketches on paper, four-by-eight sheets of plywood, cases of tracks and switches.  And as the first track touches the wood today, the real fun begins.

"You're never done with a model railroad," said Steve Grigg, "so even if you come back two years from now with scenery and all, they'll always be changes taking place."

At eye level, the trains, the homes and buildings, the cars and neon signs and the tiny people come to life.  You can't help but enter A fantasy world that's created to be fun.  And we're lucky they enjoy sharing their childhood dreams with us.

The Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders open their facility to visitors a couple of Saturdays a month.  For more information, go online to www.GreaterBRRailroaders.com/