A model train display that shows two white state troopers pointing guns at three African-Americans is drawing heavy criticism, with many charging that the arrangement is racist.
The display was put together by the Lionel Railroad Club of Southeast Wisconsin, and appeared at “Trainfest,” which is regarded as America’s largest operating model railroad show, bringing hundreds to the Wisconsin State Fair Park each year.
The display under fire featured three unarmed, black figurines sitting in a circle and drinking. Two white uniformed Wisconsin State Patrol troopers are appearing to come up behind them, guns drawn.
“It certainly wasn't done on purpose. It just happened to be set up that way,” Dan Hechel, the president of the Lionel Railroad Club, told WDJT.
Hechel then explained the display changes all the time, sometimes featuring a traffic accident or a fire.
But visitors to the exhibit were not impressed by the explanation.
“It's insensitive, disrespectful and racist,” said one attendee from Milwaukee, who did not wish to be named.
Trainfest staff said that with nearly 100 displays, it’s difficult to inspect each one and they did not see the controversial scene before the event.
“It’s an unfortunate surprise and we will take it back to our committee,” volunteer Peter Lakatos told WDJT. “This hobby is about fun and creativity and certainly not a place to make any sort of statement.”
“We are deeply appalled on learning of the Lionel Railroad Club's choice to include absolutely inappropriate social commentary in their layout display," Trainfest reps said in a statement. "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."
The Wisconsin State Police also said they were unaware of the display in a statement to WDJT.