Opening of the Milwaukee Museum HO scale layout: “All Aboard” is the name of a 10 x 35 foot HO scale model railroad at Discovery World, a family science and technology museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Set in the era of the transition from steam to diesel, the proto-indie layout opened on November 25, 2021. The exhibition supports Discover the world mission of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The family of model railroad enthusiast Richard Grigg donated the layout to Discovery World after his death to inspire children to become engineers, designers, scientists and makers. Boston-based Stephan Lamb Associates professionally built the layout.
Milwaukee Museum Layout in Brief
The layout isn’t prototypical, says Lamb, though it’s loosely based on 20and century of the Milwaukee area and Midwestern scenes along the Milwaukee Highway and the Chicago and Northwestern Wisconsin Railroads. The Everett Street station at Milwaukee Road is at the heart of this route. The depot building is from a Walthers Cornerstone kit.
Several of the other structures on the blueprint were either assembled by Lamb and his team from kits, or it was a Woodland Scenics Built-Up building/structure. About 90% of the buildings have interior lighting, and there is a traffic signaling system. Custom Signals.
Overall, this model railroad depicts a typical Milwaukee scene combined with a suburban scene from the 1940s to the 60s.
Milwaukee-specific buildings have been added to recreate some of Grigg’s childhood memories, specifically Userger’s Sausage, Pabst Brewery, and Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. There are cabins and logging scenes, farms and factories, and other vignettes with figures and vehicles scattered about.
Currently, two trains run consecutively, each on a separate closed loop. The trains are controlled by an NCE digital command control system capable of running six trains at once – a future goal of the museum.
Layout’s journey to Discovery World
Some model railways must travel after construction, which may include interstate. For the “All Aboard” layout, it certainly was. First built in Massachusetts by Lamb and originally called The Milwaukee Road, the 18-module layout took 2,224 hours to build and deliver to its first destination. It was first moved to Grigg’s home in Ohio in August 2013, then moved 7 months later to its new residence in Slinger, Wis. After his death, his family donated it to Discovery World in March 2020.
Before dismantling all 18 modules for the third time, Discovery World CEO Bryan Wunar and Wm K. Walthers President Stacey Walthers Naffah struck up a partnership. Walthers will help with the maintenance needed to keep the model railway running smoothly, while Discovery World will introduce it to the general public. According to Naffah, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking, from moving to set-up, that went into making this exhibit possible.
Eric Grabczyk, Discovery World exhibits maintenance manager, explains the process. Grabczyk, along with Lamb’s team, disassembled the layout and drove it to the center in a box truck. The railroad was then safely stored during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was nice to know the layout wasn’t thrown in a dumpster,” Lamb says. “Richard would really like that!” »
Lamb then returned to Milwaukee at a later date to assist Grabczyk and Walthers employees with the final setup.
“It took us about a week to put it together and another to rewire it,” says Grabczyk, who after all that experience, has a real appreciation for all the hard work that goes into model railroading. To learn more about the layout, click to watch the video.
Keeping kids on track
Children are the layout’s target audience, so to give them the opportunity to interact more with the layout, Discovery World changed the height of the bench. The layout was originally built at 54 inches tall, but was scaled down to 32 inches to give kids a better view.This approach seems to have worked. When the “All Aboard” exhibit opened as part of the Discovery World vacation experience, Wunar noticed that children spent a lot of time looking at it and called their siblings or parents to show them what they had found.
A model train exhibit attracts children and opens doors to explore topics such as scale and proportion, and systems and interactions according to Wunar.
“So when kids get to experience the world and learn more about how the world around them works, they’ll be better prepared to tackle topics that go beyond the simple idea of a model railroad,” says- he.
And it’s not just children who are drawn to it. Every time Wunar or Grabczyk see the layout, they notice something new. The layout is a smooth experience due to the level of detail in its many components. It’s not meant to be a one-time exhibit. Future additions are planned.
Naffah says she is excited about the exhibit because of its ability to bring families together to enjoy the hobby first-hand. After years of conversations with Discovery World CEOs, her “work dream come true,” as she calls it, has finally come to fruition with this donation.
By partnering with Discovery World, Naffah’s goal is to bring years of fun and hands-on learning opportunities to children and their families. Discovery World sees the intersection between the hobby and how it plays a vital role in teaching children STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, Artand mathematics).
“They believe in what we do!” Naffah said.
She hopes to expand similar teaching opportunities to children at various science and technology centers across the United States. Sparking their interest at a young age is key to creating a new generation of model railroad enthusiasts.
More changes and upgrades are coming to the exhibit. The goal is to teach and consolidate these essential skills for future generations.
You can see more about the exhibition in this video.