Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum Faces Eviction, Bankruptcy

November 07, 2016 10:34 AM

Nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills. The Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum, originally established as a hobby hangout for modelers in St. Paul in the 1930’s, faces eviction, despite rising attendance and revenue.

The museum, which features an elaborate collection of model trains and miniature replicas of Minnesota’s historical places, can no longer afford rent payments at its two locations in Bandana Square on Energy Park Drive, according to museum spokesperson Brandon Jutz.


“It will ultimately lead to our bankruptcy if we are unable to re-negotiate,” Museum spokesperson Brandon Jutz said Friday.

The toy museum, operated in a separate building, will close Nov. 15. Jutz hopes the model museum can operate through the holidays when the popular Night Trains display draws in 30-percent of the non-profit’s yearly business.

“We would have the money to make our landlord whole,” Jutz said about paying down the $30,000 debt.

Museum officials hope to negotiate a payment plan with Wellington Management at a court hearing in Ramsey County Oct. 26.

If a payment plan is established, Jutz hopes private investments and fundraising efforts will help the museum find new locations. Less expensive locations are being considered but nothing will be finalized until the existing debt is addressed.

Miles of Wire

Moving the giant production of model trains, tracks and miniature replicas would take at least a month and cost $50,000, according to Jutz.

“To cut everything up and package it for a move, move it and re-wire it, is a huge challenge.”

News of the museum’s logistical challenges and financial struggles attracted dozens of visitors Friday.

“To me it would be almost impossible,” Bill Johnson said about the thought of moving thousands of handcrafted pieces.

Johnson has visited the museum several times with his grandson, Augie.

“Yeah he's really into trains,” Johnson said. “I think we all were when we were growing up.”

The museum is operated by roughly 150 volunteers who build the models from scratch and engineer the trains. It started as a craftsmen group in the 1930’s and was located in the Union Depot for nearly 40 years before moving to Bandana Square in 1984.

 In 1998, it officially became a museum and started charging admission. Revenue is up 17-percent this year, according to Jutz, but it isn’t enough to cover the lease payments.

“We knew we were going to have to move and it's just unfortunate that it's happening now right before our busiest season,” Jutz said, adding Wellington Management has been flexible and willing to negotiate.

“It’s just business,” he said.

You can find more information and donate to the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum here.


Joe Augustine

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