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Tews steps down as Trainfest director

By Nick Bullock
Published: January 10, 2014
John Tews
Trainfest Executive Director John Tews receives the inaugural John H. Tews, MMR, Spirit of Model Railroading Award at Trainfest 2011.
Photo by Jim Hediger, Model Railroader senior editor
This article was updated Jan. 14.

With a detailed explanation in the January 2014 Trainfest EX-PRESS Newsletter, Trainfest Executive Director John Tews in-formed readers he has decided to retire from his position.

“Like the Caboose — an office on wheels which carried the conductor and other members of the train crew at the rear of the train — now being retired and replaced by the modern day FRED (Flashing Rear End Device) with a red light and an air gauge at the end of the train, I find I am personally at a crossroads,” Tews wrote.

“Due to the time required by Trainfest, much to my chagrin at times, my model railroad empire the ‘Timber River Railway’ (featured several times in Model Railroader magazine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the PBS program Tracks Ahead) has sat idle in my basement. It has beckoned me many a time. The situation has caused me many long soul-searching hours to resolve the time constraint conflict of Trainfest versus my personal life and passion for the hobby.”

Tews, who turns 71 in March, said he has offered to stay on the Trainfest committee and help select his replacement.

His retirement comes after he served more than 20 years at the helm of Trainfest. The Sussex, Wis., native has been retired from his job as a project manager for the Wisconsin Electric Power Co. since 2006. In addition to rediscovering his own model-railroading layout, Tews said he plans to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren.

“It’s gotten to the point that last year we spent the better part of a couple weeks up north with the grandkids and our sons and daughters-in-law,” he said. “And we had a great time up there, but I had to have all of the stuff, including Web access and phone access, so that Trainfest could continue.”

Tews has been recognized numerous times for his dedication to the model-railroading hobby. He is a past recipient of the CBS 58 Making Milwaukee Great award, according to the Trainfest newsletter. He is also a past recipient of the Hobby Manufacturers Association’s Bobbye Hall Award for distinguished service to the model-railroading industry.

In 2011, for Trainfest’s 40th anniversary, event organizers established the John H. Tews, MMR, Spirit of Model Railroading Award to “recognize those for their lifelong passion and dedication to the hobby of Model Railroading and for their continued support of Trainfest as exhibited by the leadership and commitment of John H. Tews, MMR.” Tews was named the award’s first recipient.