Glenn Gaines, 69, conductor and military model assembler

October 31, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

In a bedroom of Glenn Gaines' West Baltimore home sit tiny models of World War II warships and bomber planes. The models have all the intricate markings of combat vehicles, down to the snarling, hand-painted teeth on the nose of a German fighter plane.

Mr. Gaines, 69, who died Tuesday of heart failure at his home, spent nearly all of his free time making military vessels and aircraft -- from many countries -- like those used in World War II.

"He studied the war. He had all the books and pictures of the weaponry back then," said Francine Turner, a longtime friend and neighbor. "And he spent hours designing his tanks and planes so they would be just perfect."

Mr. Gaines, a former Amtrak conductor, bought plastic models of the vehicles as the basis of his hobby, then tediously cut, whittled and sanded the models and other pieces to make his versions more realistic, Ms. Turner said.

His models included a Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat two-seater night fighter, a Hellcat single-seat fighter (with two detachable bombs beneath its center section) and a German

Messerschmitt, with teeth painted on its nose and a swastika on its tail.

He'd often spend about 15 to 20 hours or more a day working on the models, adjusting each piece to scale and mixing paints to create the color. Many of the pictures he used were black and white.

"So, sometimes he'd let his imagination run wild for color. But mostly they had to be better than the picture, or else it wasn't right," said Johnny Lumpkin, a friend who often went with Mr. Gaines to the library to read books and study pictures about World War II.

"He was a perfectionist and what he made was a visual history," he said.

Mr. Gaines displayed his models at World War II, history buff and model building shows along the East Coast for the last five years. He sold some of his models to collectors and gave some to local elementary schools, where he spoke about the war.

A native of Springfield, Mass., Mr. Gaines attended the University of Massachusetts and was in the Army from 1942 to 1946. He received a Purple Heart for an injury he received from a land mine.

Upon his discharge, he worked for a trucking company in Boston before coming to Baltimore in the 1950s to do construction work. He was a conductor for Amtrak from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s.

While traveling for Amtrak to New York and Boston, he visited libraries to learn more about World War II.

"His favorite time was going to the Smithsonian [in Washington] and just stand there looking at the planes and probably dreaming of making it later. He knew that he could," Mr. Lumpkin said.

No services are planned.

Mr. Gaines is survived by a brother, Robert Gaines of Boston; and a sister, Shondra Wilson of Birmingham, Ala.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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