All Aboard for Charny’s Festirail

All Aboard for Charny’s Festirail

Festirail_Train_KidsArticle and photos by Job Patstone

The weekend of August 25th and 26th marked the fourth running of the “Festirail” exhibition in the town of Charny, just across the bridge from Quebec City.

If it sounds like a festival celebrating everything to do with railroads and trains, that’s exactly what it is. About 4,000 people show up for the annual event which is a miniature train enthusiast’s paradise. The organizer, Emilie Tétu is not into trains that much, but thought the idea was original and with a team of volunteers, including herself, they contacted the most fanatical fans of model trains and railroaders from around the province and brought together a show that now includes a family fair for the kids, musical presentations for the young at heart, using as much local talent as possible, and above all a warehouse full of operational model trains ranging from the smallest scale to the largest for kids and grown-ups alike to enjoy; and it’s all free.

Festirail_Train_GuitarThe hobbyists are more than willing to answer any questions you may have about trains, railroads or anything else connected to the era of rail travel dating from 1831 to present day. I learned that there are several scales related to model trains starting from the largest “G” (for Garden) scale to the smallest “TT’. In between there are “O”, “HO”, “N” and “Z” scales and each enthusiast has his own preference. One man, using “Z’ scale trains, has a whole setup installed in a guitar case, which I and everyone else, found very remarkable and yet amusing at the same time. These collectors spend lots of hours changing and improving their installations to look as real as possible at the same time sharing ideas with each other to make the displays as interesting as they can. There was also a display of ancient telegraph and morse-code devices which were the only means of communication back in the days when there were no computers or smart-phones.

Festirail_Train_GangOutside there were real hands-on exhibits of historical railroad vehicles made available for kids to ride on and learn all about. As the operators were telling me, the younger generation today doesn’t know a great deal about the history of the railroads, so this exhibit gave them a chance to experience first-hand, the trials and tribulations our ancestors went through when discovering and opening up this country from sea to sea. There was a workable “Hand-car”, a couple of “Gang cars”, and a demonstration of track laying procedures to inform the many onlookers of how it was done. Jokingly some said the “hand-car” was probably the first exercise machine and indeed, after pumping one of those all day, one’s biceps would be quite developed.

Festirail_Train_HandcarOne of the main reasons Charny decided to concentrate on train paraphernalia for their annual festival is the very fact that the town itself played a major role in the railroad industry back in the 40’s and 50’s. It was a major stop-over point for many trains, traveling from Montreal to Halifax and also a turning point for others heading elsewhere, consequently the historic connection justified the means.

The organizers are hopeful their tribute to trains and all things related will become an even bigger attraction as the years go by; they’re certainly on the right-track to making that happen.

Categories: Arts & Culture, News

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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