Auryse L  joined Widowed Friends of Halton (WFH) in September. At a recent dinner, she shared a few details about her amazing 40+ year family project, so we thought we’d like to find out more about it and share with you. As the pictures demonstrate, what Auryse and her husband Bernie accomplished is truly awesome.

Forty years ago they began building a simple model railroad and ended up, all these years later, with an amazing, complex, creative world of their own imagining.

While Bernie created the railroads, Auryse is the creative conceptual force building towns, villages and rural communities around 8 separate railways that make up their unique, personal project. Over the years, their children also helped out creating objects of their own to add to the layout.

It all began in 1973, when their first son received a “ Putt-Putt the Train” set  for Christmas.  As a second son and a daughter came along, Bernie and Auryse spent many happy hours playing with the children and their train set.  Seeing the fun the family had with it helped reawaken Bernie’s interest in railroads and sparked his interest in creating his own model.

He began in a small room in their house in Fabreville, Quebec and gradually added and increased the scale of the railroad as time went on. About 15 years into the project, Bernie came across a hobby store that was closing and needed to sell its inventory. He bought up everything train related and grew his railroad substantially to 6 running trains, adding electricity to the model to light homes and streets.

Disaster once struck in the form of the family cat who decided to go for a walk on the model, upsetting everything and tearing down all the carefully laid telephone poles (with intricately laid black thread for telephone wires). Needless to say pets and small children were banned from the train room after this incident, although grandchildren are now welcome after the age of 5 to run the trains. They love to put on their engineer hats and, with adult supervision, run the trains, activating the sounds and whistles.

img_0319In addition to his fascinating hobby, Bernie also had a career in banking which often necessitated moves from Quebec to Ontario, back to Quebec and then returning again to Ontario. Each time, as the railroad increased in size, moving it to new homes became more and more difficult. Fortunately, Bernie and Auryse found specialized movers who were able to carefully pack and move the railroad in large pieces in mattress boxes, so they could reassemble it each time in a new location.

The family made a final move to Oakville 20 years ago. The train room now exists in a 12 x 23-foot room and continues to be a work in progress. Auryse took a few years break following Bernie’s passing, but recently has recommitted herself to continuing his legacy by growing and enhancing the layout.

Auryse says “ The project is never finished. Every time I go to the train room I see more possibilities and want to add or finish a section differently. The train room is and has always been our “happy place”. I can always go and lose myself in creating the world that Bernie and I started so many years ago.”

For the future, Auryse and her children and grandchildren plan to continue working on the layout and may grow it even larger.

If you’d like to learn more about this project, feel free to chat with Auryse at a WFH event or email her at  In the meantime, here are more pictures!