(CONWAY) Here’s a fun-filled reason to retrieve a Christmas gift of a toy train set from the closet and put it in motion. Members of the Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club (CAMRC) remind parents and grandparents, “Playing with trains is fun year-round.” They invite train-loving families to bring the trains out of the closet and enjoy them during the upcoming Train Open House to be held Saturday, March 31, 9 to 3, at the McGee Center at 3800 College Avenue in Conway. Admission to all CAMRC-sponsored events is free, but donations in cash or as a check are gratefully accepted to help keep the trains running.
Racing against the Clock
A layout-building contest will be a first-time, new attraction of this first of four public events sponsored by the club during 2012. In a race against the clock, family teams will build train layouts on the floor of the Community Room of the center in Conway and compete to win prizes. Teams will be comprised of an adult and at least two but no more than three youngsters in the four through 14 age range. Three divisions of the contest will be available based on age level and inherent difficulty of the track plan for assembly.
The teams will receive a box of Lionel FasTrack, a track plan, a power pack, and a train. According to the rules of the contest, the team must build the layout, wire it to the power pack, and run the train for one lap around the track under the watchful eye of the judge, a timekeeper, and a monitor. Train-hobby-related prizes will be presented to the winners and two runners-up in each division of the contest according to their lowest elapsed timings. All participants will receive an award ribbon.
“We want parents or grandparents to participate with their kids,” said contest judge and CAMRC President Mike Mottler of Conway. “We have invited Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops to be involved too, and scoutmasters can be the adult team member.” Scouts with an interest in model railroading may earn credit toward earning the BSA Railroading Merit Badge.
Learn about Trains
To help families get started in model railroading and enhance their enjoyment of the hobby, club members will present several informational how-to sessions intended for beginners. Experienced hobbyists will describe how they got started with trains, created a home layout, and added scenic effects to it for realism.
The main attraction of this event will include the HO-scale, 8×16-feet modular layout built by club members. Operating displays of other trains will be provided too: “kid-powered” wooden push trains, N scale, O gauge, and G gauge trains. Visitors can also enter a free raffle for a chance to win train-related door prizes.
A Thomas-oriented HO-scale layout will be available for active hands-on play by youngsters as Junior Engineers. A new train will be introduced for this layout – Gordon, with matching passenger cars. Other favorite Thomas series trains will be present: Emily, James, Percy, and Thomas.
Jack Adams of Conway will demonstrate a modern method for building the lightweight O-gauge platform created for his vintage Marx Electric Trains from the 1930s and 40s. These toy trains were made of lithographed tin-plated steel. “Adults who were kids in the 1940s will probably recognize these toys from an era when an electric train set was the toy of choice for Christmas or birthdays,” Adams said.
Lionel models of the HOGWARTS EXPRESS train and the POLAR EXPRESS train will be in action. According to Craig Gerard, the owner of these trains, “Trains featured in popular books and movies have generated a fresh interest in this hobby within today’s generation of youngsters.”
Families can bring their HO trains to this event and run them as a guest engineer on the club layout. The trains can be of any brand but must be in good operating condition. Youngsters may also participate in a train-related scavenger hunt and search for details in layout scenes, such as: “How many bicycles are parked at Miss Bettie’s Diner?” A sweet prize will be offered to all who correctly identify ten items.
An Educational Hobby with Useful “Side Effects”
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. Moms and dads understand that this hobby is based on creative construction, not destruction. It also encourages practical values such as pride in craftsmanship, respect for valuable items, and following safety rules to avoid damage to the trains.
For more information about the model railroading hobby and CAMRC activities, visit the club’s website: www.artrains.org.