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Electric train lovers, young and old, unite on Junior Engineering Day

Wednesday, May 17 2000
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If there's a single toy that appeals equally to both children and adults, it's the electric train. Infants are fascinated by their first glimpse of tracks circling the Christmas tree, and older folks while away thousands of retirement hours creating miniature locomotives that precisely match the originals. Keeping this art and passion alive locally is the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club, which has met for more than 40 years in the basement of the Randall Museum near Buena Vista Park.

On Saturday, May 20, as on the third Saturday of all odd-numbered months, the club holds Junior Engineer Day, giving demonstration to that tough childhood lesson for every kid who's got a great toy: sharing. For four hours, kids of any age get to control the lever that starts, stops, and changes the speed of a fully loaded electric train as it whizzes around the room.

The elaborate layout, measuring 30 by 60 feet, is a vibrant time capsule of Middle America, circa 1960. It includes a medium-size city complete in every detail, plus mountains, forests, bridges, and tunnels. Strategically placed mirrors provide views of the train when it goes around the bend. And when it disappears into a tunnel, kids try to guess where it will emerge. After its circuit, the train returns to the rail yard, waiting for the next junior engineer.

Junior Engineer Day is open to every child tall enough to reach the lever, with or without an adult's help. Because of its popularity, numbers are given out, so that everyone gets a turn. Action is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, S.F. Admission to the museum is always free, but donations are welcome; call 554-9600.

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Max Millard

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