AUGUSTA — The Augusta Model Railroad Club will kick off a year-long celebration Feb. 15 — taking time to celebrate the club turning a half-century old.


At 2 p.m. the club will host an “operating session,” open to the public to watch the trains and see the club layout.


“People have signed up and will be running trains,” said past president Gordan McPhail. “There will be some cake and ice cream. It will be an open house, that is what we are starting off with in the first month (of celebrating the anniversary.)”


The Augusta Model Railroad Club, formerly Wichita Model Railroad Club, was founded in 1970. The club layout and operations were initially located in the Omnisphere in Wichita, but in July 2001 the club signed a lease agreement with the City of Augusta to move the layout and all club operations into the city’s former firehouse, 113 6th St., Augusta.


The club boasts 22 members.


Renovations on the firehouse were completed in fall 2001 and members began working on a new layout in their new space.


The club maintains a digitally controlled layout in HO scale (1/87th actual size) features two mainlines and numerous passing sidings winding through the towns of Wichita, Augusta, El Dorado and Emporia. The layout, which is set at eye level, is loosely based on the BNSF Emporia Subdivision. Points of interest include a digitally controlled Emporia yard with eleven tracks, Wichita Union Station, Augusta oil refinery and industrial park, and a hidden staging yard for member storage.


The main room is 25 by 45 feet, filled with a layout. There’s also a second level, and staging yards in another room.


In January 2003, the first train made its inaugural trip around the new layout. Since then, benchwork, backdrops and trackwork have been added. The club has an operation session each month, usually the third Thursday of the month. There is a club meeting each Thursday.


Some of those meetings are work nights — repairing and expanding the club layout.


The club is continually modifying and upgrading the layout and usually has multiple projects working at one time.