Model train enthusiasts serious about their craft

November 14, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Clinics on how to paint model train locomotives and boxcars, make trees, shrubs and mountains, paint a plastic building to look weathered and aged, or learn about HO-scale knuckle couplers kept about 200 model railroaders busy Saturday at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Antietam Creek in Hagerstown.

Modelers were busy asking questions and taking notes during the clinics.

They are part of South Mountain Express '04, sponsored by the Mid-Eastern Region chapter of the National Model Railroad Association.

The event began Thursday and ends today. A weekend highlight includes visits to private homes to see 35 train layouts, said Raymond Price of Frederick County, Md., one of two chairmen of the event.

Several modular layouts were set up in the Clarion for viewing and teaching purposes.

Modelers came from Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Two sides of a large conference room were lined with tables holding various aspects of model railroading, including locomotives, trains, layout sections and small model buildings.


Judges - hobbyists themselves - peered intently into minute details of the models to determine how many points to award each subject.

Norman Garner, 64, of Portsmouth, Va., is one of the judges. He's been into model trains since his father bought him his first one, a Lionel, months before he was born.

"I still have it and it still runs," Garner said. "It got me started, even though I had to put things on hold while I was in the Navy."

He was discharged in 1979 and has been modeling ever since, he said.

His layout at home is 11 feet by 16 feet. It isn't finished.

"Anytime a modeler tells you his layout is finished, that only means he's going to tear it down and build a new one," Garner said. "I've had three or four layouts since 1979. I started my latest one eight years ago."

He figures he has from $5,000 to $7,000 invested in his layout and rolling stock.

That's a pittance compared to the layouts that Lance Mandheim of Silver Spring, Md., a custom layout builder, makes for rich enthusiasts.

It's his full-time job. An average layout measures 20 feet by 20 feet, he said. He builds them in sections. His prices range from $20,000 to $150,000, depending on size and details.

His customers include professionals who want train layouts, but don't have the time or sometimes the talent to build them, Mandheim said.

Price said he doesn't have a layout, but he's into the hobby because he just likes trains and modeling in general.

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