Train layout work stalled, not derailed

May 02, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO ? Deep in the recesses of the Eugene Smith Memorial Community Center basement, an impressive layout of donated model trains is being painstakingly molded into what is expected to become a major attraction in this small town.

Town Manager John Kendall said Doug Bast, a town businessman and historian, told officials that a Virginia man wanted to donate an elaborate set of trains and sets to Bast's museum but that there wasn't room there.

"Doug approached the mayor and council with the idea," Kendall said.

The set, owned by Northern Virginia resident Frank Farner, was valued at approximately $20,000. The cost of disassembly and reassembly in Boonsboro was estimated at $5,000 to $8,000, Kendall said.

Farner pitched in $3,000 of that amount but the rest has been slow in coming, Kendall said. The hope is that the Boonsboro community, train buffs and others will donate the rest so the work can be completed.


Nonetheless, a plan was put in motion to set up the display in the basement of the community center in Shafer Park, where it would be accessible to more people than at Bast's museum.

Brion Boyles, a professional model builder, has made great strides in constructing a platform for the display, which will be about 15 feet wide and nearly 30 feet long.

"I've been a modeler since I was a child in Hattiesburg, Miss.," Boyles said. "I'm told my first sounds weren't 'mama' or 'dada' but the noise made by a steam train whistle coming from the tracks across from my home."

Now living in Northern Virginia, Boyles has journeyed to Boonsboro several times to haul tools, building materials and an array of tracks, trains, props and sets for the display.

Although stalled by lack of funds, Boyles envisions quite an attraction when the work is done.

On one end of the display, the HO scale trains and backdrops reflect a Pacific Northwest theme. The other end has a distinct look of European countryside.

Boyles, in his mid 40s, retired after 19 years as a U.S. Navy ship navigator. While teaching celestial navigation at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Boyles said he fell in love with Northern Virginia.

"I worked part time in a hobby shop to earn hobby dollars," Boyles said.

Then he decided to take up the hobby full time.

Now he does custom painting and repairs on boats and airplanes as well as designing and setting up train layouts such as the ones in Boonsboro.

"There is tremendous potential for the kids in this town," Boyles said. "We're trying to get outside interest so the job can be completed."

Richard S. Keesecker, a local banker who is active in community affairs, said he is excited about the train display.

"This will be one of the things we need to attract tourists and railroad buffs to Boonsboro," Keesecker said.

Kendall said a new entrance to the basement of the community center will be installed to make the display more accessible to the public.

Although he doesn't have a model railroad of his own, Boyles belongs to the Prince William Model Railroad Club. He and the other members construct modules of train layouts that quickly can be assembled for shows and displays. The club members have also established a permanent site in Quantico, Va., where open houses are held monthly.

"We find that kids get really interested in trains," Boyles said. "We attract kids who want to participate by painting sets, making trees, doing rock carvings or running trains."

To see finished train layouts created by the Prince William club, log on to its Web site at PWMRC. org.

For more information on how to support and contribute to the Boonsboro train display, contact Kendall at 301-432-5141.

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