Retired Couple Opens Model Train Exhibit to the Public
Photographer / Amy Payne
They say you’re only as old as you feel, and Nancy Wadle says she still feels like a kid. That’s evident when you witness the train exhibit in her Zionsville home.
“All my life I had always wanted to have a train,” Wadle says. “When I finally had enough money that I could buy a train, that was the beginning.”
Wadle bought her first train in 1990. After that initial purchase, Wadle and her husband of 55 years, Jess, continued buying trains and accessories, first setting them up as part of the Enchanted Village of Lights Christmas display in Laurie, Missouri, near their home at the Lake of the Ozarks. What started with one train ended with six trains running throughout the display in 2012, when the pair moved.
The Wadles offered their train display to neighbors in their homes in Missouri and Wisconsin, as a way of celebrating the season. Inner-city children in Wisconsin would be invited inside, and then sent home with a Beanie Baby that had been donated. It was something that the grandmother of four just loved to do.
“We don’t compete with trains,” Wadle says. “This has just always been for the children. That’s what this is all about – children of all ages.”
Now their display is based in their home in Zionsville. When the couple purchased their home, they realized they had more room than needed for just the two of them. They enlisted Rick Whitt and Ross Buttrum from the Zionsville Train Depot to help set up their trains.
During the Christmas season, the setup brought a feeling of celebration for the holidays. A few groups were regaled by “The Night Before Christmas,” read aloud by Wadle, a retired teacher.
Each touring group is given a card for a scavenger hunt so kids can look for specific items within the scenes, and children are invited to color pictures of trains to adorn the walls of the room. It has provided a unique way for families to take in the wonder of the season in an intimate environment.
The Wadle Express utilizes G-Gauge trains throughout the setup.
“They’re easier for the children to see everything that’s going on in the trains, with the people and in the houses,” Wadle says.
While the original setup is aimed towards Christmas, Wadle is brainstorming on how she’ll make the setup a year-round design, allowing families to visit any time of the year.
“It’ll be interesting to see how I change it – I’m going to try to have it coincide with the holidays,” she says.
Visiting the Wadle Express is free, and Wadle ensures that the room is cleaned and sanitized between visitors.
“We just invite people to come and visit,” she says.
To plan a visit to see the Wadle Express, call Nancy at 317-769-0657. Due to the pandemic, the Wadles ask that all visitors wear a mask and practice social distancing when possible.