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Trains are a family affair at Corner Field Model Railroad Museum in Geauga County

A visit to the Corner Field Model Railroad Museum is an experience to behold. Trains run on multiple tracks through elaborate city and country landscapes, all designed by the Elesh family in Geauga County.

“We always had the dream of building a building, giving the trains to the people,” Tom Elesh Sr. said.

Tom Sr., his wife, Vicki, and their two kids, Tom Jr. and Ashley, are doing just that with their family-run museum, tucked away in Huntsburg Township near Middlefield’s Amish country, roughly an hour drive from Akron or Cleveland.

Carrie Wise
Ideastream Public Media
From left to right: Tom Jr., Vicki, Tom Sr. and Ashley Elesh, as seen inside the Corner Field Model Railroad Museum & Trading Post Train Shop in Geauga County.

“I always wanted to make a layout, because I was tired of hearing the people say the hobby is dying. It's not dying. It just goes in phases,” Tom Sr. said.

The Elesh family members are great ambassadors for collecting model trains with a layout nearly the length of half of a football field. They have more than 250 engines and several hundred freight cars, Tom Sr. estimated.

Carrie Wise
Ideastream Public Media
The Corner Field Model Railroad Museum layout is 32 by 145 feet.

Building the museum and its layout took about 15 years before they officially opened in 2017. The display pays tribute to Northeast Ohio, with trains rolling by miniature replicas of everything from Lake Erie’s salt mine to Geauga County farms and the now-defunct Geauga Lake amusement park.

“We have a city amusement park, which you might see replicating to like Geauga Lake, which has an operating roller coaster called the Big Dipper,” Tom Jr. said.

And in a nod to another now-closed Northeast Ohio amusement park, Euclid Beach Park, the rocket ship ride spins around on the layout too. Details like these are a big attraction for visitors, Tom Jr. said.

Carrie Wise
Ideastream Public Media
The Rocket Ships are a reminder of Euclid Beach Park, an amusement park that closed more than 50 years ago.

“We get people that come for just the automobiles to the buildings to the scenery,” he said.

Tom Jr. and his sister, Ashley, operate the trains, each of them also controlling features that the trains go past, such as a drive-in movie theater, which was showing “The Polar Express” on a recent afternoon.

Carrie Wise
Ideastream Public Media
Trains roll by the drive-in theater inside the Corner Field Model Railroad Museum.

“Everything in here is a dream come true,” Ashley said. “My dad had a dream to create a business, and we all followed.”

The museum’s name, Corner Field, reflects another family dream pursued: a large ballfield built for Ashley when she was 10 years old and sick with meningitis.

“I asked my dad to build me a big ball field in my front yard,” she said. “He's the greatest dad in the world and my role model, and he made that dream come true for me on Christmas.”

Tom Elesh Jr.
The Corner Field Model Railroad Museum is named after this ball field built for Ashley when she was sick as a kid.

The plan is to keep the trains running well into the future with the next generation of the Elesh family eventually taking the reins of the operation.

“That makes me feel very happy and relaxed,” Tom Sr. said. “A lot of businesses like this die. They close because nobody's there to take over.”

In addition to the museum, the family also sells model trains and accessories at the Trading Post Train Shop, which carries on the name of a longtime Cleveland business where Tom Sr. once worked.

“Back in the time of the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a time period when I was there at the store, a lot of people would come in holiday times, but you never hardly see the children,” Tom Sr. said. “Today, it's because we have this massive train display, I get the chance to share it with the children of the country and our world.”

The Corner Field Model Railroad Museum & Trading Post Train Shop, 16720 Pioneer Road, Huntsburg, is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.