Small trains delight lads of all sizes

November 01, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

It's a world where fantasy meets reality, where authentically detailed trains rumble through imaginative landscapes of one's own creation, where playfulness is serious business. In short, it's model railroading.

Ever since Lionel introduced the first "electric train" set around the turn of the century, people have been operating model rail lines in their homes.

Now a group of railroad buffs will showcase the latest development in model railroading. The Harford County Large Scale Railroad Society will bring its Garden Railway display indoors from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Harford Mall. The layout will cover an area about 10 feet by 65 feet and will feature trains and colorful buildings owned by most the society's 30 members.

Garden Railways were started about 20 years ago when LGB (Lehmann-Gross-Bahn of Nuremberg, Germany) produced the first "G gauge" trains. LGB developed the concept of a model railway for outdoor operation, using the natural terrain.

The entire rolling stock is constructed on the basis of well-known, narrow-gauge originals with their particular flair. They run on small radii of curvature in the natural surrounding as well.

Garden railroading exploded in the United States about 14 years ago and other manu facturers, including industry stalwarts, Lionel and Bachmann, entered the market. Starter sets -- usually an engine, two cars, 12 sections of curved track, one control transformer, four railway station figures, an uncoupler and a set of track clips -- sell for as low a $175.

Three years ago, five model railroad enthusiasts started to meet informally to pursue their hobby. They were: R. Madiso n Mitchell Jr., Jeff Tomecek, Bill Oliver, Jerry Mangin and Emmanuel

Posposil, all of Harford County. The purpose of the group was to provide a vehicle for the men to channel their interest in model trains.

This year, the group invited others to join and in May the Harford County Large Scale Railroad Society was formed. According to Mr. Tomecek, each member pays $5 annual dues "to cover the cost of mailing the club's newsletter."

The society meets once a month and offers its members the opportunity to exchange ideas and information. Some own displays that stay up all year. A layout can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to set up, depending on how elaborate an owner wants it to be.

The Harford Mall exhibit is the society's way of recognizing November as National Model Railroad Month. The society encourages people to bring cameras and camcorders to capture the sights and sounds of garden railroading. Members will be on hand to answer questions.

"We are extremely excited about setting up our display in the Harford Mall," said Mr. Posposil, who designed the 28 modulars or platform sections that, when put together, form the entire indoor layout. "We wanted to get the trains off the floor and onto a platform that was both attractive and efficient."

"What makes it attractive is the fact that it is two feet high, which allows youngsters to sit on the floor and get a really neat view of the trains. It's efficient because it's portable, since the modulars can be carried in the trunk of a car."

Mr. Mitchell, who is the son of the renowned decoy carver, R. Madison Mitchell of Havre de Grace, provided most of the material used to construct the modulars, while Mr. Oliver took on the intricate task of wiring the set. Both have elaborate outdoor layouts at home which they operate most of the year. Mr. Oliver even has an engine equipped with a snow plow to clear the tracks.

After Thanksgiving, the society will set up operations at the Bel Air Town Center.

"Our layout will be on display daily until after the first of the year," said Mr. Tomecek. "The rolling stock will change every time a member brings their engines and cars. It's conceivable that someone could visit the display 30 times and see 30 different sets operating."

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