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Mud Creek Central model railroad rolls out its stock in Lockport

All aboard for a family-friendly ride on Niagara County's newest railroad -- the Mud Creek Central.

Never mind that the scale-model railroad is only one-eighth the size of a real railroad.

The Mud Creek Central has a collection of operating steam and diesel locomotives, passenger and freight cars, a stone-ballasted roadbed, sidings, an engine house and foundry, bridges, crossings, a round table and a tunnel.

And more construction is under way.

Dads, moms and the kids will get a chance to take a 15-minute ride on the Mud Creek Central's open-air passenger cars during an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the railroad's headquarters, 7349 Tonawanda Creek Road near Plank Road, Town of Lockport.

This weekend, $10 buys a two-day family membership, good for unlimited rides and access to equipment still under construction, as well as plans for expansion.

The club eventually hopes to have about five miles of track on its 25-acre grounds.

Anybody who gets "hooked" on the hobby of large-scale model railroading can become a social member of the club for $35 a year or a full member for $65 a year. Full members get to use the club's equipment to build their own rolling stock, become "engineers" or "conductors" on the club's trains and run their own locomotives and cars on the club's tracks.

Visitors this weekend will chug through the lush growth of wild plants on what used to be two adjoining farms, cross bridges and culverts over small drainage ditches or country streamlets, pass through a covered bridge and enjoy the fresh country air of the countryside between Tonawanda Creek Road and Mud Creek -- a tributary of Tonawanda Creek, from which the railroad gets its name.

Robert Potzger, the club president, and Mike Burg, who owns some of the club property, said the original goal called for a large-scale model railroad that would be more accessible to the public, so they bought the old Pfohl farm property and began building the Mud Creek Central. Eventually, the property will be donated to the railroad club as a continuing nonprofit organization.

During this weekend's public meet, plans call for running three separate trains -- with a train of three or four cars leaving every five minutes.

Club members began laying the track in 2007, and the first train was run in September 2007. The first public meet, held last Aug. 15, attracted 300 to 400 guests. Potzger and Burg said they expect a larger attendance this weekend if the weather is favorable.

The club, which numbers more than 30 members, owns about 15 gasoline or electric locomotives resembling mainline diesel engines and about 10 steam locomotives, most of them coal- or propane-fired.

Most of the equipment is handmade by the members, but ready-to-run locomotives can be bought commercially for about $5,000 to $15,000 each, Potzger and Burg said.