Lower Level Model Railway Historic Diorama — Now that the Lower Level of the Burlington Junction Station is almost complete, a dedicated team of Friends of Freeman Station volunteers has begun assembling a unique and special model railway and historic diorama depicting life in the village of Freeman in the early 1900’s.  Local history buffs, modelers, diorama artists, painters, computer programmers, lighting specialists, writers, sound engineers, and model train enthusiasts are invited to join the project team.

When finished in several stages, the teaching diorama will recapture the nostalgia of the times, depicting early Twentieth-century bucolic life in Freeman, now a part of the City of Burlington, Ontario.

Background — The Burlington Junction Station was the hub of Freeman community life for almost 100 years.  The personal and commercial comings and goings of the community were centered there — the crisscross of railway lines brought goods and people to the area, and they were the primary mode of shipping goods, especially livestock and produce, to world markets.

Logs from that era record the passage of more than 100 trains a day, so the Station was a busy place, punctuated by the roar of the steam locomotives, the wail of their whistles, the clackety clack of the railcars.  Numerous first-hand accounts, first-person interviews, and meticulous record searches have thoroughly documented life in the village.  One traveler recalled, catching a train in Winter time, “It was almost as cold in the Waiting Room as on the platform!”

More than three and a half years of research and planning have gone into the Lower Level Railway Diorama project.

“Stage 1” of the project will see the model railway layout built, with the diorama’s features continuing to expand and grow after that.  Eventually it will include computer-controlled presentation of teaching moments including automatic movement of the trains and playback of video, audio, and lighting effects.

The model railway in the diorama will be unlike anything seen in this part of North America.  It will showcase a beautifully crafted 1/24th scale model of the Burlington Junction Station.  Matched to the scale of the Station model, the railway rolling stock will feature era-specific Grand Trunk Railway steam locomotives and passenger and freight cars in 1/24th scale (“G” scale).

If you would like to join the project, you’re invited to email us, detailing your particular interests and skills.  We need artists, painters, miniature modelers, computer and sound technicians, model railway enthusiasts, model railway display builders, and craftspersons.

BDRC team meeting, May 20th 2017

Our traveling model railway exhibit

Video by Kevin Davies

In the Summer of 2016, Friends of Freeman Station brought our portable model railway demonstration to various community venues around Burlington.  It was a chance to see a steam-era model train in operation, learn about the LLRD project as well as the restoration of the Station, and for the children some special treats.  Venues included Tansley Woods,  Appleby Carfree Sunday, the Burlington Seniors’ Centre, LaSalle Park, Paletta Lakefront Park, and Alderfest.

BDRC meeting - December 2015

Early meeting of the Basement Diorama Railway Committee

Retired Teachers Organization approves grant
for Freeman Station railway history exhibit

RTO/ETO District 15/Halton of the Retired Teachers of Ontario has announced approval of a grant application by Friends of Freeman Station (FOFS) to fund a computer control system for its historic model railway educational exhibit. The money will be used to purchase the central “brains” of a planned interactive, museum-quality model railway diorama depicting life in the village of Freeman (now part of Burlington) in the early 1900’s.

“The diorama, we envision, will eventually be an exciting educational experience for visiting school groups as well as the general public,” said Bob Miller and Ken Taylor, co-leaders of the FOFS Basement Diorama Railway Committee (BDRC). “We were pleased to receive word of the RTO/ETO favourable decision.”

Claudia Stewart, President of RTO District 15/Halton, said, “We look forward to continuing involvement of our RTO members in the creation and operation of the diorama, and we see it as an important addition to the learning experiences of local youth and the general public – a nostalgic look back at life before airplanes, computers, and smart phones.”

Brian Aasgaard, President of FOFS, says construction of the Lower Level Railway diorama will begin soon at the Burlington Junction Station, and will proceed in several phases. The computer system will eventually automatically control lights, lighting effects, audio and video playback, and movement of the model trains to create an informative and educational story of life in the village. The diorama team includes approximately 35 persons with model railroading, diorama creation, and authoring interactive
educational materials. Interested parties are invited to join the team. Skills sought include 1/24 scale modeling, scene painting, computer programming, teaching, writing, carpentry, G scale model railroading, and electrical expertise.”

Email if you would like to join the team.