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Rich Mullen sifts through a stack of outgoing Washington County Commissioner Myra Peterson's campaign signs. Peterson donated her signs to local model railroad enthusiasts, who will use them to build structures for their garden railroad displays. Scott Wente photo.

Rail hobbyists to use Peterson's campaign signs

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News Cottage Grove, 55016
SWC Bulletin
651-459-9491 customer support
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Outgoing Washington County Commissioner Myra Peterson already has found a way to stay involved in rail issues, albeit on a smaller scale.

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A "garden scale," actually.

After losing her re-election bid last month, Peterson gave an estimated 400 campaign signs to local model railroad enthusiasts. The corrugated plastic signs will be cut up and used to construct small buildings featured on garden railroad displays.

Model railroad buff Rich Mullen of Cottage Grove said many hobbyists like to build their own scale buildings. The structures are the size of small dollhouses, made of various materials and can be very elaborate. The plastic material used for campaign signs works well for garden railroad building siding or roofing, Mullen said. It is strong but not heavy and it is durable.

"It's a sheet of material you can do all sorts of things with," he said.

Peterson's signs are blue and yellow - not exactly common roofing colors.

"You can advertise Myra - or you can paint over it," Mullen joked.

Most of the signs date from Peterson's first commissioner election, about 17 years ago. Since they are plastic, they withstand weather and stay intact if properly stored between elections. Signs are costly, so it is smart to reuse them, she said.

Ron Kobilka, a local model railroad enthusiast, got about 15 of Peterson's signs and plans to use them for his backyard rail display.

"They usually end up in the Dumpster somewhere," he said of old political campaign signs.

Not always, though. Mullen said many scale-model railroad hobbyists know that campaign signs make good building material.

"They wait for the elections to be over and then they go around and ask" candidates for signs, he said of fellow enthusiasts.

Peterson said she had roughly 200 signs measuring 16 inches by 24 inches. She had another 200 signs that were 2 feet by 4 feet. Mullen talked with Peterson after the election, and started picking up her signs. He is storing about 80 of them in his attic, but will distribute them to other garden railroad enthusiasts in the Twin Cities area.

Peterson said she "couldn't be happier" that her signs are going to be used on model railroads.

"Don't you think it's appropriate?" said Peterson, a transit proponent. "I thought it was great because I'm still going to be a rail advocate."

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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