Around the town
Model train track at Maximís encircles Oconomowoc landmarks

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff

July 31, 2014

Michael Pate is fascinated by the operation of the model trains that he runs on a regular schedule Wednesday through Sunday at Maximís at the Oconomowoc Depot. Both of his grandfathers were train men, he says, and he still enjoys riding on them.
Josh Perttunen/ Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC - In Maximís at the Oconomowoc Depot, a second Oconomowoc is growing - with familiar landmarks popping up all along the model train tracks.

Michael Pate said the model train town has a resemblance to Oconomowoc and attempts to recreate the feel of an era that  stretched from the 1940s to the 1960s. It was a time, he said, before the modern lines of Amtrak and Canadian Pacific raced through town. Instead, the tracks were operated by the Milwaukee Road and Chicago and Northwestern.

Businesses are donating toward the inclusion of their buildings in the tiny community and the larger goal of adding a $1,200 model of Oconomowoc City Hall.

HO model trains encircle the model town with regularity, and a time table of times is listed throughout the restaurant. It is a schedule Pate tries to follow, but he cautions that the little trains can sometimes be a little late, just like the big trains.

Children always want to know if the model trains will go any faster. Being allowed to sound the whistles is also a popular request.
Josh Perttunen/ Enterprise Staff

On Wednesdays, the line runs from 10 a.m. to noon, Thursdays are 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday is 10 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pate invited the Enterprise on board to discuss his project.

ENTERPRISE: Where did the idea for this project come from?

PATE: Iíve always been fascinated by trains. Both of my grandfathers were train men. One was a machinist and the other was a conductor on a passenger line.

I became fascinated by model trains and their operating mechanisms 20 years ago. This track contains a good representation of the late Jim Fullerís collection. He had been an English teacher at Oconomowoc High School for 40 years before retiring. His passion for trains is what led us to name this the James F. Fuller Memorial Railroad.

Our goal is to include historic and contemporary models of the depots, landmarks, businesses and iconic structures in the local community.

Oconomowoc City Hall is one of the buildings on Pateís wish list for his model town. The $1,200 necessary to build it has been raised, but there is always more work to be done.  
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

ENTERPRISE: What communities, locations and other features are represented on this model train track?

PATE: We have Oconomowoc, Oconomowoc Lake, Nashotah, Lac La Belle and Hartland.

Maximís was one of the first model buildings that was added. There is also the Kiltie Drive-In, the Pub, JCís Foods, Brittingham & Hixon Lumber and a representation of the building on 102 N. Main St. that housed Kowabunga Comics.

ENTERPRISE: Other than City Hall, what additions are on your wish list?

PATE: There is the depot in Nashotah, constructed in 1915, and the Red Circle Inn, which is the oldest restaurant in Wisconsin that is still in operation. We want to build out our Nashotah portion more. Also, there are 15 businesses that are poised to add their buildings.

There is electrical work to be done, such as lighting buildings and adding functional arms at the crossings.

Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

ENTERPRISE: Are there any features on the tracks that are entirely made up?

PATE: There is Dinosaur Park in the corner. That was started when someone brought in a plastic dinosaur toy to add to the scenery. Since then, an elephant and giant frog have been added.

ENTERPRISE: What are childrenís reactions?

PATE: They always want it to go faster. They also wants to sound the whistles. They hang over the sides to get a better look.

ENTERPRISE: What are adultís reactions?

PATE: They are fascinated. There are some who come in regularly and note changes. Some end up volunteering their time. Volunteer workers are always needed. Those who are interested can let a restaurant employee or a track operator know.

ENTERPRISE: Are there any other features that customers might be thrilled to see?

PATE: There are workers painting the real coach car on the grounds. There are plastic figures I recently bought to represent those workers and Iím painting a model coach car in an effort to keep pace with the progress theyíre making.

Donations may be made by calling 262-271-7743 or visiting the restaurant.