Design Your City summer camp program combines model railroading, urban planning, and fun

The World's Greatest Hobby organization and Milwaukee's Discovery World Science & Technology Center co-developed the model railroad-themed camp program
The Design Your City campers stand behind their finished modules at Milwaukee’s Discovery World along with World’s Greatest Hobby president Stacey Walthers Naffah (far right).
The campers built model railroad structure kits to represent the businesses, residences, and industries of their HO scale neighborhood.
Stacey Walthers-Naffah, president of the World's Greatest Hobby organization, helps a camper with his HO scale diner.
While the foam track roadbed dries along the front of the modules, a camper lays peel-and-stick roadways for the rubber-tired traffic through the neighborhood. Other students continue various scenery projects to make sure the modules are finished by the end of the week.
When campers needed a break from building they took turns at the throttle running locomotives along a track loop.
In addition to building structure kits, the campers learned how to make tunnels, bridges, and other landforms using foam.
At the end of the week, the campers showed off their finished neighborhood to their parents. The modules will also be part of a large modular layout display at Trainfest 2019.
Fourteen middle school students participated in the pilot Design Your City summer camp program held at the Discovery World Science and Technology Center ( in Milwaukee from July 29 to Aug. 2. During the week, the campers designed and built a neighborhood using HO scale model railroad components, including track, scenery, and structure kits.

Discovery World co-developed the camp with the World’s Greatest Hobby (WGH) organization (, a nonprofit educational program dedicated to model railroading. WGH sponsors include Atlas, Bachmann, Kato, Walthers, and Kalmbach Media. WGH members also donated structure kits, models, and books for the students to use at the camp and beyond.

The campers spent the early part of the week deciding what they’d include in their neighborhood. They then drew up a plan and got to work building structures. Although a couple of the campers were model railroaders, most didn’t have any experience with the hobby, but that didn’t stop them from having a lot of fun.

Visitors to the camp included civil engineers and professionals from heavy industry to provide some background on urban planning. Stacey Walthers-Naffah, WGH president and president of Wm. K. Walthers, gave a presentation about the model railroading hobby. Other members of the hobby industry provided hands-on instruction as the campers began building their neighborhood.

By the end of the week, the campers had finished a pair of 2 x 4-foot modules, including structures, track, and scenery. The culmination of the week was showing off the finished modules to their parents and other visitors. In addition, the campers’ work will be part of a larger modular railroad on display as part of the inaugural Trainfest Builders youth program at Trainfest on Nov. 9 and 10, 2019. See for more information.

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World's Greatest Hobby on Tour is a lively and family-friendly event.


Thank you to our generous program sponsors.
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