Roundhouse Festival celebrates 20th year

EVANSTON — The 20th Annual Roundhouse Festival took place at the Evanston Roundhouse Aug. 4-6, drawing train enthusiasts from surrounding states to gather together and support the restoration of the Evanston Roundhouse.

The event is organized by the Hostlers Model Railroad Club of Ogden, Utah, and is entirely not-for-profit. All of the event organizers are volunteers, and there is no cost of admittance for the public to attend. 

Dan Heiny, an Evanston resident and a long-term member of the Ogden club, has participated in organizing the event each of the 20 years that it has taken place. 

Heiny explained that part of the money for the event is raised by selling table space to vendors, but the primary source of funding is from selling raffle tickets at the door. Various businesses donate anything from camping supplies to train tickets, which are then raffled off at the event. Durango Train, in Colorado, donated two tickets for a historic narrow gauge train ride from Durango to Silverton this year. 

Any money raised from raffle tickets and not directly used for the event is donated to help fund the roundhouse restoration. In 2016, the festival raised more than $1,100 to donate to the roundhouse’s renovation efforts.

“I’d just like to see the roundhouse remodeling completed, to see it being used instead of being torn down like most of the other places. The school holds a lot of events and programs down there, and I feel like it’s a place that the entire community can use and is a piece of Evanston that’s very unique,” Heiny said. 

Several model railroad clubs from surrounding states set up exhibitions at the event. The members of these clubs are highly attentive to detail, and the scenes of the displays were intricately complex. Most of the model trains were powered by electricity, but one was steam-powered. 

“Once a month, we meet and work on our models together,” said Trevor Stevens, a member of the Utah Garden Railway Society. “We have portable modules for when we go to shows like these though, because it’s easier than digging up the ones that we’ve built in our backyards.” 

The festival also featured free rides on the Evanston Roundhouse turntable, which is among one of the few turntables in the United States that is still maintained and operating. 

According to Alan Carter, of Salt Lake City, the Evanston Roundhouse turntable is the only one in the nation that has never officially been retired from service. It, along with the roundhouse, is 105 years old this year. 

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