Train hobbyists and families with youngsters interested in model railroading will see the huge, highly detailed train layout of the Crooked Rail Model Railroad Club of Little Rock in operation during an upcoming free Train Open House event. The operating display will be shown in action at the McGee Center at 3800 College Avenue on Saturday, June 18, from 9 to 3.
A Source of Inspiration
“It’s a hobbyist’s dream come to life,” said Daniel Gladstone, President of the Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club (CAMRC) in Conway. “Oftentimes, seeing a large, highly detailed, elaborately scenicked train layout will inspire visitors to get involved in what we consider the world’s greatest hobby. New train hobbyists may start with a small layout but often have big dreams.”
This event will be the second of four quarterly events sponsored by the CAMRC during this year. Visitors can enter a free raffle for a chance to win train-related prizes.
Thomas and Friends
Many children know the imaginative stories about the “very useful engines” working on the railroad on the fictional Isle of Sodor. The Thomas series of books and videos and toys have stimulated fresh interest in model railroading in today’s youngsters. Many children have read about the train-based characters in the Thomas books, viewed the videos, or watched the PBS TV series derived from the stories written by an Anglican minister for enjoyment by his grandchildren.
A modest-size, HO-scale layout will be installed in the Community Room of the center with Thomas, James, Percy, and Emily trains available for hands-on operation by children. “Kids can earn a Junior Engineer certificate for demonstrating proficiency in running all four trains,” said Mike and Carol Mottler, the Trainmasters of the Thomas layout.
Trains for every Age and Interest
Trains of CAMRC members in action during the event will reflect the diversity in the train hobby – different scales, different eras, and different manufacturers. Visitors will see a variety of trains, including a table-top, kid-powered, push-toy wooden train set and a rug layout on the floor intended for very young engineers.
Trains 101 Demonstrations
Families with an interest in the train hobby may participate in free introductory mini-classes intended for newcomers interested in the hobby. Club members will describe a basic layout, conduct demonstrations, show participants how to operate the trains, and answer questions.
A HO-scale module now under construction by club members Mike Mottler and Don Hansen of Conway will be on display. It’s a work in progress and will ultimately include mountain peaks, a deep canyon with a waterfall, and a railroad bridge spanning the canyon. They’ll explain their techniques and show how to use scenery products: cardboard strips as a foundation, plaster cloth for surfaces, and landscaping materials.
Jack Adams of Conway will demonstration his innovative method for building a lightweight O-gauge platform layout for his Marx Electric Trains from the 1930s and 40s. These toy trains were made of lithographed tin-plated steel. Later on, Marx models were molded from plastic. “Adults who were kids in the 1940s and ‘50s will probably recognize these toys from an era when an electric train set was the toy of choice for Christmas,” he said.
Guest Engineers Welcome
The CAMRC HO-scale 8×12-feet train layout will also be in operation. Families can bring their HO trains to the event and run them as a guest engineer on this layout designed and built by members of the club. The trains can be of any brand but must be in good operating condition. CAMRC members plan to build more modules in order to create a more interesting pattern than the existing rectangle; perhaps in a “T” or “H” or “L” shape.
Kids and Trains
Some of the modules of the CAMRC HO-scale layout were designed and built by teenagers, with a little help from dad and mom.
A module developed by Kaity Haynes (14) of Conway was featured in an episode of the TV/5 Kids Club with Cadet Kelsie. Although the model railroading hobby is generally considered a “guy thing,” she created a countryside scene with mini-mountains and a lake filled with realistic “water.” She made the train module as an art project to show her skill in creative design.
Another teenage club member, Jamie Swain (14) of Vilonia and his dad, Robert, designed a module that includes an old-timey train station.
One club member’s module includes a mountain with a dam and spillway, a bike path with a trailside diner, and – as a salute to UCA in Conway – a cave with a family of bears. Another module is a farm-based scene with a tall grain elevator.
The Big Trains
Don Myers of Conway collects and operates G-scale trains – the large-size trains often placed at the base of a Christmas tree or installed as an outdoor layout in the yard. His particular train hobby interest is circus-theme trains with animal cars.
An Educational Hobby
Club members will explain to thoughtful parents and grandparents that the train hobby stimulates creativity, challenges the imagination, and facilitates lessons learned in school in math, science, art, and shop classes. The hobby also encourages such practical values as pride in craftsmanship, respect for valuable collectibles, and following safety rules to avoid damage to the trains from recklessness.
The Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club was formed in Conway in the early 1990s and has maintained a supportive presence for the model train hobby through a dedicated group of train hobbyists. The club fosters public awareness of railroad history, railroad safety, and model railroading in its many forms through its Train Open House events. Community projects sponsored by the club include:
* Assisting with the construction of the HO model layout at the Faulkner County Museum
* Operating an O-gauge three-rail modular layout during the Conway Festival of Light in
* Refurbishing the 24-inch gauge “park train” on the grounds of the Conway Human
Development Center for use as a recreational resource for its residents.
Persons and organization interested in assisting with these projects may contact
Daniel Gladstone by phone at 501-269-3030 or visit the club’s website at www.artrains.org.