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WITH VIDEO: Working on the railroad: Northern Ironhorse Railroad Society has been in existence here since 1985

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BEMIDJI -- "It's a disease and there's no explanation or cause for it, there's no cure and it only gets worse as time goes on," Christopher Muller explained.

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Muller serves as president of the Northern Ironhorse Railroad Society, or train club, an organization that has been in existence Bemidji since 1985.

"It's a shared interest of model railroading and railroads in general," Muller said.

Since its inception 29 years ago, Andy Mack has remained an active member of the group. "We started meeting casually, wherever we could, we met for the first time at a coffee shop," Mack said. The organization currently has about eight active members.

The group has called several places home through the years and was even homeless for a period of time but currently resides in the basement of the Beltrami County History Center.

Historically, the building was the home of the Great Northern Depot. At one point, the building was close to being unsalvageable but "several of us involved in train club spent hours cleaning upstairs during the restoration of the Depot," Muller said.

The city of Bemidji did a lot of cosmetic repairs to the building as the Beltrami County Historical Society took over the building, which now rents the basement to the club.

The organization used to have a module design for its model railroad which allowed for it to be disassembled, however, "We have kind of, eliminated the portable aspect of it because it's all one piece now," Muller said.

Having a permanent model railroad has allowed the group to be able to make changes and expand unlike before, "Because having it in separate pieces, it was just prone to having problems," Muller said.

Group members have been working on expanding a section of the railroad for the past several months, although they often find themselves getting off track.

"We have no deadlines," Mack explained, as the progress is very slow.

Several members of the group have their own model railroads set up at home but they keep coming each week.

"It's just because of the camaraderie and visiting, talking about our areas of expertise," Muller said.

A major event for the group is Depot Day, an event hosted by the Historical Society each summer, where people can visit the model railroad that the group has set up.

"I get great enjoyment when people just come down to visit or if they have a specific historical questions about what used to be in Bemidji," Muller said.

The group is always open to new members, people who have an interest in trains and railroading. The Northern Ironhorse Railroad Society meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday in the Beltrami County History Center.

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