Trains Transport Viewers Into A World Of Fun

December 17, 1993|By Jody Roesler | Jody Roesler,Contributing Writer

The region in miniature -- the Rivera Beach Volunteer Fire Company's 294-square-foot train garden -- is again packed with the detail, animation and humor that has been attracting onlookers for 15 years.

Three firefighters -- volunteers Jim Boney and Bob Drexler and full-timer Ted Heinbuch -- have designed their model railroad after the CSX and Chessie lines in the area, especially those that run through Baltimore.

"We drive through the city and other places, see what we like and duplicate it," Mr. Drexler explained.

One structure on the city side of the train layout is patterned after Oriole Park at Camden Yards, while a flashing marquee is reminiscent of the Charles Theatre, and a ship dry dock is modeled after the Coast Guard yard.

"The main feature this year is night-to-day lighting," said Mr. Drexler.

The night scene lets lights shine through windows in the buildings and reveals the backup lights on a tractor trailer rig.

With dimmer switches, the scene changes to day, complete with a clear, blue sky in the back ground.

"The detail attracts the older folks, but it's the animation that attracts the kids," Mr. Drexler said.

Also in the city, smoke billows from the charred windows of a burning building, while the lights flash on the fire engines out front. A crane smashes a wrecking ball into an old building.

Out in the country, a hot-air balloon "flies" over the layout on a track mounted in the ceiling.

Farthest from the city, a carnival swings with a Zipper ride, a Ferris wheel and a flying chair ride similar to the "Yo-Yo."

Next year, an operating roller coaster should take the place of the carnival.

"The carnival is short-lived, you can see the people all carrying suitcases," Mr. Drexler said.

"Subtle humor is everywhere," said Mr. Drexler, pointing out the jokes that are sprinkled throughout the layout, like the "W. E. Loosum, Attorneys" sign on a building in the city.

Waldo is hidden somewhere in the layout this year, and Barney sits on a city rooftop.

"Ted wants everything to be to scale, and Barney's too big, so I'm going to put strings on him and put up a balloon company sign behind him," said Mr. Drexler.

While the detail and animation brings people in, it also brings in roaming fingers.

"Our main problem now is keeping the kids from touching -- the big kids, that is," he said.

The train garden is open through Jan. 2 at the firehouse, 8506 Fort Smallwood Road. Hours are 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. Weeknights the display is open 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The train garden will be closed Dec. 25. Information: 437-6054.

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