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Train Show Showcases Eau Claire History

Posted June 27th, 2013

An event that attracted hoards of people last year is returning for its second run.  Eau Claire’s Outdoor Family Train Show will wrap up the Fourth of July weekend, being held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 7 at Phoenix Park in downtown Eau Claire.

The event is being hosted by Charlie Schaaf, manager of downtown’s Model Train Classics and Riverfest Group, a business that helps organize festivals and events.  After a good turnout last year, Schaaf decided to make it an annual event, he said.

“They just coming and coming and coming, and we thought it was a wonderful success,” he said.

This year, the show will feature vendors from Wisconsin and Minnesota, operating layouts of the railways, a model train swap meet where people can buy and sell their models, toy trains from around the world and live steam demonstrations, Schaaf said.

A display of the Phoenix log loader will also be featured, which calls attention to the history of Phoenix Park and the role Eau Claire played in railway history. The Phoenix log loader was a steam locomotive that ran the tracks hauling lumber from the Chippewa Valley, Schaaf said. The locomotive was built in Eau Claire, and now shares its name with the park.

“People see the bird design with the Phoenix (at the park)… and that’s fine, but it was really named after the Phoenix log loader, because that’s where it was built,” Schaaf said.

Eau Claire also was a stop along the famous Chicago North Western 400 route, according to the Chicago and North Western Historical Society. The railway was one of the oldest in the Midwest, and connected Chicago to the Twin Cities. This event marks the 50 year anniversary of the train, last in operation in July of 1963.

Schaaf said he hopes the Eau Claire’s Outdoor Family Train Show will be an enjoyable reminder of the town’s history.

“I think it’s going to be a very excellent family event where people can come and take what they want (from) it and bring away memories about trains and downtown Eau Claire,” he said.

Vendors and exhibitors will come a number of miles, some coming from Rochester, MN and Fond Du Lac, he said. Schaaf hopes that will help draw people toward Eau Claire.

The event is the only free train show, to both attendees and vendors, in the area, Schaaf said.