Is that a miniature choo-choo? Yes, yes!

Pardon Me, Boy 

Is that a miniature choo-choo? Yes, yes!

When the massive, '40s-era Union Pacific steam engine No. 3985 puffed into Union Station a couple of weeks ago, it was like Halley's comet, a lunar eclipse and leap year all rolled into one. At least, that's what it was like for folks whose calendar revolves around trains, be they new or old, big or small. Folks such as the members of the model railroad clubs that make their home in a chilly Blue Ridge Mall storefront called Train Town. There, tracks virtually buzzed with this question: Have you seen it yet?

Most Sundays, the tracks also buzz with trains. Some puff real smoke from their stacks. Some toot electronic horns. Some are as big as the standard, Christmas-day train sets you see in toy store windows. Others are smaller and thinner than garden snakes. Silver-bullet Amtraks and dusty old boxcars run their circuits. And for every train running at Train Town on a Sunday, about two curious visitors pay their respects.

"We've had around three dozen people here today. I'm surprised," says David Sutherland, Train Town builder and Weekend 'N' Gineers Club president, between bites of a Kit Kat. A symbiotic relationship has formed between Train Town's owners and the Blue Ridge Mall manager, a Lionel train fan himself. "The other mall people like us because we get guys and their kids in," he says. "Being a draw for the mall pays our rent." But it doesn't pay their heat, which is why most of the guys moseying around with train controllers in their hands have kept their jackets on. Members from each train club pay $5 in monthly dues. That's just enough to keep the lights on.

Thomas the Tank Engine this is not. These trains chug over deep canyons and miniature waterfalls, all of them frozen in time and plastic. Striated Styrofoam painted in tans and browns and sprinkled with textured green fuzz makes for believable mountain terrain. Trains thread through the requisite tunnels like scenes from movies.

Ask these club members the model and series numbers of a train engine and they'll rattle off stats like baseball fans listing batting averages. But it's not all rivet counting. The Kansas City Model Railroad Club's detailed setup has many rewards for the sharp eye, such as the tiny cow standing on the third floor of a building that's being demolished by a wrecking ball. In the urban part of the train's course, there's a movie theater called the Palace, the marquee of which blinks in neon announcing The War of the Worlds as its feature presentation. Look closer, and at street level you'll see people no bigger than your fingernail running in fear from little green aliens. And a few feet down the track, there's evidence that shit happens, even in miniature: Skid marks and a broken fence precede a tiny red truck floating in a plastic, green lake. (The water's surface is cracked, a nod to the cold Train Town climate.)

"It's creatively prototypical," surmises 12-year-old Devin Connelly, who helped build a section of this track, proving that train fanatics spring eternal.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Nadia Pflaum

Latest in Night & Day

Most Popular Stories

Facebook Activity

All contents ©2015 Kansas City Pitch LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Kansas City Pitch LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.

All contents © 2012 SouthComm, Inc. 210 12th Ave S. Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of SouthComm, Inc.
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Website powered by Foundation