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Miniature trains help raise money for homeless
When Benno Bucher was boy growing up in Switzerland in the 1950s, he used to look over his neighbor's fence just to catch a glimpse of their miniature railroad, wishing he had one of his own.
"The tracks were there in their backyard, but they never used it," he says. "I never saw a train on it."
So when the Beach Grove resident had an opportunity to own a set of his own 14 years ago, he thought, why not?
"My kids were young then," says Bucher.
Bucher's miniature railroad, situated in his front yard on Vardon Place, has been growing ever since. This year he is teaming up with Food on the Corner to open up his Christmas-themed train display to the public, and collect donations to help provide meals for the homeless in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The display has proven popular with the neighbourhood children for years, and Bucher encourages the kids to walk through his yard and explore the tiny train stations and villages of "Bucherville", complete with a mountain traversed by a moving miniature gondola.
"I think most people either had a train when they were kids, or would have loved to have had a train," he says.
Bucher's neighbours are getting into the act as well, with displays popping up around the cul-de-sac.
"It's great fun, and a great way to help too," he says.
Rick Lewall is a long time volunteer and past president with Food on the Corner, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The group serves anywhere from 150 to 500 homeless and hungry every Saturday in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Donations from Bucher's display will go towards the continued upkeep of the local charity's food truck.
"We don't have a truck, we don't have a program," says Lewall.
The group has no paid staff, and no administration costs, so all the money donated goes to making sure the city's poorest and most destitute at least have a warm meal in their stomachs.
"Every thing we do, we do with our volunteers," says Lewall. Close to 150 of them in all.
"In 30 years, we haven't missed a Saturday night."
• The miniature train display is open to the public from 5:30 to 9 p.m. seven nights a week during December, weather permitting. Admission by donation. The display is located at Vardon Place, east of Farrell Avenue.