EXCLUSIVE: 'Racist' Train Model sparks change in policy at Trainfest
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The world's largest train show brings hundreds to the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds each year, but among among nearly 100 train model layouts one scene has upset some people.
The display depicts a white Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper pointing a gun at three african american men sitting down. The men are unarmed and one appears to be drinking. One Milwaukee woman at Trainfest said it’s offensive.
“It's insensitive, disrespectful, and racist, it is - they're sitting down. They standing up doing something?,” the attendee said.
President of the Lionel Railroad Club of Southeast Wisconsin Dan Hechel said if their layout offended anyone it was unintentional.
“It certainly wasn't done on purpose,” Hechel said. “It just happened to be set up that way.”
Hechel says they change the display often.
“We move it all around the layout,” Hechel said. “Sometimes we have a make believe fire, sometimes there's a traffic accident.”
But, for some others at the Trainfest event they say the display is not offensive.
“I don't think it's it's just a display,” said an atendee. “If you don't like it go to the next one.”
Trainfest staff say they didn't know about it.
“Its an unfortunate surprise and we will take it back to our committee,” Volunteer Peter Lakatos said.
Staff said with nearly 100 different displays, it's hard to see every scene.
“This hobby is about fun and creativity and certainly not a place to make any sort of statement,” Lakatos said.
After CBS 58 brought it to the organizers attention, they decided to change their policy. In a statement Sunday night they said:
"We are deeply appalled on learning of the Lionel Railroad Club's choice to include absolutely inappropriate social commentary in their layout display.
Trainfest prides itself in being a family-friendly event and has never encountered a need in 46 years of staging the event to review the content of the layouts for social or political commentary. That policy will change and we will be implementing stronger reviews of the layouts on display to ensure this never happens again."