people visiting the Napa Valley Model Railroad


What Are THEY Doing to our sense of Place?

There’s a deep sadness when we lose a friend. We miss the familiarity and good times we’ve spent together over many years. Similarly there’s a profound sadness when you no longer recognize what had been your home and your community. You no longer recognize it because it is being taken away from you piece-by-piece. Gone (or soon to go) are the toy shop, the dance studio, downtown Safeway, Pearl, Cervoni, Zellers…places where you were welcomed, where you met friends, where your children met friends.

It’s all in the name of progress.  THEY (our elected and appointed officials) tell us we need tourist revenue But WE (the people who live here) need our sense of place. We are losing the soul of our Napa.

And now THEY have done it again. After almost weekly announcements of the demise of yet another local establishment, THEY told the model railroad museum at Expo it had to close. This museum was built by our fathers and grandfathers and designed to represent our Napa. But THEY decided the space is needed for progress—a parking lot. And many residents of Napa are deeply sad; this is a location so many have enjoyed for generations.

The Vision Statement of EXPO states that it is to be: Napa County’s premier agricultural, recreational and community gathering place. If they evict the RR Museum the community will have to meet in the parking lot.

The Last Train Is Leaving the Station-Napa Will No  Longer Be a Family Town

The message below was written by John Rodgers, a member of the Museum since 1966:

Every Friday night for the past 47 years residents from our community and neighboring communities have  gathered for a friendly meal and then headed over to the Fairgrounds to a relaxed workshop environment.  What brings us together is the model railroading hobby, but the magic sauce is the diversity of people and  the joy they find in simply gathering socially. The model train layout creates a place where neighbors can talk  and mingle with some of the smartest people in our community. The society is a repository of Napa talent in  electrical engineering, computer sciences, art, photography, topographical mapping and multiple disciplines  including historical research and curatorship of historical information. Kids receive mentoring in positive  social behavior, productive conflict resolution, cooperative group dynamics, protocol and design discussions.  

When people gather over a mutual interest like railroads or any hobby, strong friendships develop and the  society becomes an incubator for a sense of self-worth and a belonging to the Napa community. The railroad  museum is much more than a bunch of old guys playing with trains. If you want to know about anything, ask a  member of this 501(c)(3) organization and there will be someone who will take the time to get you an answer.

young boy and man looking at model trainWe provide a structured social environment where kids can come and participate in negotiating, exploring  group dynamics, understanding the democratic process and the chain of command native to any well-run  institution across a multitude of generations. We  are a healthy place where kids can grow  up.

I recently asked why the Fair Board was going to terminate the railroad historical society’s lease when it is  such a healthy, accessible and beneficial asset to our community. I found out that they had decided to replace  what took 47 years to create with a parking lot.

Folks…for several years the Fair Board has had a piece of paper called a Master Plan but they do not have  the money to build the pretty pictures they see on this grand vision of a Master Plan. In the desire to create  a pop culture venue and event center, part of the Fair Board wants to eliminate the model railroad with the  hopes of someday actuating this new master plan which competes with private enterprise venues. Locals  who have recently attended the summer fairs have noticed the changes. Do you remember the Sons of Italy’s  spaghetti and handmade meatballs at the summer fair? Gone! Do you remember the fireman’s corn? Gone!  PTA  Hamburgers? Gone! Rodeo? Gone! Destruction derby? Gone!

The Fair Board mission  statement:

The Napa Valley Exposition is a vital part of the diverse Napa Valley community and showcases our agricultural  heritage, provides a high quality entertainment venue and cultivates recreational and educational  opportunities for residents and visitors of all  ages.

boys and men looking at Napa Valley Model Railroad museum trainsThe railroad layout is a one of a kind hand built art installation and is a functioning model. It is literally a part  of the building in which it resides. It is too complex of a set-up and would be impractical to relocate to another  location, even if another 3200 square foot space could be secured. The Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical  Society’s lease terminates on December 31, 2017, unless the Fair Board decides to sincerely allow time for  legitimate opportunity of public comment or includes the railroad museum in the newest Master Plan. The Fair  Board’s rushed vote has the appearance of a political maneuver without proper community comment and now  the community is stuck with their destructive vote. Another part of the social fabric of our fragile community  will end up under the blade of a bulldozer and maybe someday you will end up with a VIP parking lot for a  few more cars.

The community [YOU] can help the Fair Board become unstuck by asking the Fair Board to have a  proper public comment period where the Board can receive comment from all interested parties. Perhaps the  Fair Board doesn’t consider public comment because it lacks a constituency. Nevertheless, it has a duty to the  public and to its mission statement. The issue should be voted on with all stakeholders’ opinions out in the  open and every Fair Board member allowed an informed opportunity to  vote.

The purpose of public comment is to allow the public to participate in the development and changes done  by agencies to their community. We remember the past redevelopments that have sacrificed our uniqueness  and beauty only provided by unreplaceable historic buildings and byways. Rather than restore and preserve,  agencies have ordered their destruction, stripping Napa Valley of its  character.

We’ve seen other master plans without money come and go. This one is not different. It is, as of today, still  unfunded. Yet, without promise, should we the citizens of Napa allow what we’ve already built, love and  treasure to be destroyed? Save the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society!

Put up a fight Napa! Show up at the Expo Board Meeting this Tuesday morning at 10AM to let them know you want to keep the Museum in your Town.

You can also Write or Call the Expo Board:

  • John Dunbar
  • Jeri Hansen-Gill
  • Don Huffman Jr.
  • Jose Hurtado
  • Belia Ramos
  • Vanessa Robledo
  • Devonna Smith
  • Thomas Trzesniewski
  • Al Wagner