Chesterton Tribune



County Park Board studies possible locations for model railway display at Sunset Hill Park

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Where do you put a 40’wide by 125’ long outdoor model train display and storage building at Sunset Hill Farm County Park?

Given the extent of open space at the park, the task may sound easy but it proved to be quite the opposite at Thursday’s Porter County Park Board meeting.

“It’s hard to visualize with all the slopes, drainage and swales,” said County Park Board member Craig Kenworthy.

The board was approached in November by the Illiana Garden Railway Society about the opportunity to host its model railroad and town which it formally displayed at Samuelson’s Nursery in Washington Twp., which closed last year.

IGRS President David Ransem said the tracks total 1,100 feet in length and the model town of Franville includes a saw mill, farm, engine supply yard, baseball diamond and a lake. The Society would operate the scene on Saturdays May through September. The track is said to be permanent but the model buildings and trains would be stored during the off season in a 10’ x 20’ storage shed.

The board had questions about where the display would best fit near the park’s parking areas. At Thursday’s meeting, Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the County’s GIS Department gave him a way to show a 40’ x 125’ polygon that could stretch and morph on a map.

About every way the board tried to place the rectangle around the parking lot and maintenance buildings, an obstacle presented itself. The board wants to be out of the way of where the Education Center is proposed be built between the parking lot and the existing interpretive building.

Drainage proved to be a challenge in the areas open around the sheds and maintenance buildings.

“It’s a real soft area there,” said Board President Richard Hudson. Maintenance worker Jack Kashak said that if it rains for more than a few days, there will be standing water in those areas.  

Other locations were ruled out such as the saw mill, for obvious reasons, and the area next to the front gate which is needed for the events and festivals the parks held throughout the year. The pond and prairie areas are also undergoing restoration.

At the end of the search, board members indicated there might be a chance to put the display where the animals are now. Lenckos said the department plans to eventually move the animals east to the field used as a campground by the Northern Indiana Historical Power Society once a year in September.

Lenckos also agreed to seek expert advice on modifying the drainage at the other possible locations.

In other business:

-- Lenckos said there will be a Master Plan Committee meeting on Monday, Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. The committee will look at the existing draft. The plan will talk about the parks’ benchmarks compared to other counties and create a list of action items for the next five years, he said.

-- Parks Communications Director Darlene Cohn has assisted the Porter County Parks Foundation with launching a new website at The site gives details about the Foundation’s past and its future objectives. Lenckos said the Foundation will also publish its first newsletter in years.

-- The board agreed to keep the same committees as the previous year. Those include Land Acquisition and Development, Communications and Marketing, Sunset Hill Education Center, Sunset Hill Trails Development, Aukiki Park and Budgets and Personnel.

-- Before the meeting, the Parks Department held a reception for its volunteers in the rotunda at the County Administration Building. Lenckos thanked the “hundreds of individuals and groups” that have given their time and support. “The staff and I wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you.”

-- The board approved an amendment to the animals plan at Sunset Hill Farm. For this year, the parks plan to add three female sheep to the existing animal assortment.

-- Board member David Canright thanked Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission Board President Mitch Peters for speaking in support of purchasing additional acreage at Brincka-Cross Gardens during the public hearing to create a fund for the grant at Tuesday’s County Commissioner meeting. Peters said the acquisition is important because parking space is needed at the park.


Posted 2/3/2017




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