New Brunswick

Edmundston man brings love of trains to life on a tiny scale

For railroad hobbyist Guy LaForge, there is nothing quite like riding the rails - even if the train is only a miniature. LaForge is the person behind Du Réel au Miniature in Edmundston, a train interpretation centre he's been running for the past four years.

Guy LaForge owns and operates Du Réel au Miniature in Edmundston, a railroad interpretative centre

Edmundston man creates working mini railroad

6 years ago
Duration 1:36
Guy LaForge is the person behind Du Réel au Miniature in Edmundston, a train interpretation centre he's been running for the past four years.

For railroad hobbyist Guy LaForge, there is nothing quite like riding the rails - even if the train is only a miniature.

LaForge is the person behind Du Réel au Miniature in Edmundston, a train interpretation centre he's been running for the past four years. 

There have been 6,800 pieces donated to Du Réel au Miniature and the only thing LaForge says he to had to buy was a sledgehammer for $2.
The mini train loop is about a 10-minute ride through the woods. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

The centre also has ride-on miniature train operation, complete with a train that is one-eighth the size of the real thing, and a track that loops between little creeks, meant to represent the St. John and Madawaska rivers.

"We're not really a museum, we're really more a railway interpretation centre." said LaForge.

"The main difference is we're allowed to do mock-ups to show people [when] we don't have the pieces ... we're going to show you what it looks like in that time."

LaForge says he is constantly adding and updating the site, so the site is always changing to show a new aspect of the railway, and the workers or families that made their lives around it.

The maximum speed of the mini train is 16 mph, so the ride takes a breezy ten minutes. And if the train should derail? Because it's so small, LaForge can just set it back up on the track. 

Made of recyclable materials

Recycling is important to LaForge and his wife, Geraldine, who runs the centre with him.  Almost everything on the site is recycled or reused in some way.

"We put a lot of emphasis on recycling, because my generation and the one before trashed the planet," he said.
This old CNR lunch box is on display inside the museum. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

There is a garden where plants are in pots made from terra cotta pipes from railways and slate left over from city projects.

LaForge said the couple saved 50 trees and $2,000 by re-purposing old railway wood for the museum building.

The centre rotates exhibits every year and this year's theme is containers, including vintage lunch boxes that were used by railway workers of old.

900-foot model train

LaForge also has a massive 900-foot model train layout in the basement of his house that recreates several areas of New Brunswick and requires three computers and six people to operate. 
LaForge has a massive model train operation in his basement that actually works. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

The train layout is meant for fellow enthusiasts who want to play engineer.

​The detail on the model trains and the landscape is astonishing, right down to replicas of birds in the trees next to the tracks.

LaForge says it took one artist up to 70 hours to properly age a model train by applying rust spots and graffiti.

Campground coming

LaForge says he plans to build another track to resemble the United States side of the border, complete with a customs office and a no-technology-allowed campground. 

"Tablets, cell phones are not allowed, because we don't want you to type to people, we want you to talk to people," said LaForge.

Visitors will park their cars, buy a train ticket and ride the train to LaForge's U.S. border, where they will stay in eight by eight-foot shanties around the train track.
Graffiti applied to the model trains, to make them more realistic, is easier to apply than rust stains. All it takes is a sticker and some airbrushing. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

There will be cold water showers, gazebos and fire pits, and a mile-long walking trail. The shanties won't be big enough for mattresses, so LaForge says he will use hammocks for sleeping.

"Since a good canvas hammock costs around $80, we decided to recycle. We recycled 2,500 pairs of jeans to do our canvas."

The campground is under construction but won't be ready in time for this season.

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