- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Time may pass more quickly this summer for visitors waiting to board the Columbian Park train.

Thanks to a monetary gift from a local family and a gift of time and knowledge from a group of volunteers, park visitors will be able to congregate outside a scaled-down version of a train depot, where they can watch an even smaller scale HO model train make its way around a display inside the building.

The James K. Risk Family Foundation donated $160,000 to build the depot and the display, parks superintendent Claudine Laufman said.

She said the concept of displaying a model train inside the depot took root during her many years working at Columbian Park Zoo.

“I enjoyed watching the families, especially the kids who are fascinated with the train. And as a mom of two boys who are fascinated by trains, I thought what a wonderful opportunity for the community to enjoy something,” Laufman told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/1kis22a ).

Laufman mentioned the idea to a local businessman, and the next thing she knew, she was introduced to about one dozen model train enthusiasts who gladly took on the project.

The diverse group includes a farmer, a few business owners, a retired U.S. Navy commander, a retired surgeon and two Purdue University retirees. They are from Tippecanoe and surrounding counties.

The men share one thing in common: Each has spent years designing and building operating model train layouts in their basements.

They pooled their collective expertise, talents and time for a few hours almost every Tuesday night since October to create an elaborate display on top of a U-shaped base of plywood boards. The side boards measure 11-feet long by 3-feet wide, and the connecter is 8-feet long by 3-feet wide.

On a Tuesday night in February, the designers and builders gathered in Ted Luce’s West Lafayette home to add even more intricately crafted elements to three scenes connected by the small gauge tracks.

The city has a grain elevator, gas station, shops and a park. The farm setting includes a farmhouse, garden, barn, pond, horses, cows and pigs. A mountain area includes a forest scattered with deer and houses, and a stream features two fishermen and a canoeist.

“Everybody contributed something from his own interests,” Luce said. “A lot of what I did was build a number of the structures, the buildings and the bridges, because that’s kind of my thing.”

Bob Gallippi, the farmer, shepherded construction of the agricultural scene. “I had to come in and correct a few things,” he joked. “For example, we had to put end rows on the corn rows. We had a discussion about that.”

With glue in one hand and tweezers gripping a tiny gate in the other, Gallippi bent over the miniature hog lot to attach the gate to the fence.

“Do you think that’s heavy enough to hold a hog?” Gallippi mused. “I don’t know.”

In another area of the basement, Will Jordan and Carl Griffin sat at a table and used tweezers to shape the branches on plastic trees.

“The trees are flat, and what we do is bend out the branches to create a 3-D tree,” Jordan explained. “Then you put glue on the branches and you start putting clumps of foliage onto the branches.”

Different sized trees, different colored tree trunks and different shades of greenery are the secrets to making the foliage look natural, Griffin said.

“These are random sizes because that is what nature is all about - randomness,” he explained.

Over by the train board, Jim Lewis and Larry Swanson used a fine-grained sander to smooth down the sides of the wood, then Lewis applied gray paint.

“It started out with the lumber base, then the foam part which is 2 inches, and then there’s another inch of foam board on top of that,” Lewis said. “The track and all the other scenic things go on top of that.”

The textured limestone rock is made of plaster poured into a mold, Chuck Tuttle said.

“Just as it starts to set up you squish the mold onto the backdrop, hold it for a little bit, let it set, then peel away the mold and you are left with rock,” Tuttle said.

“You come along with some paints, some India ink, and you just weather it up and make it look like rock.”

The men occasionally walked around the layout, studied it from different angles, and added a shrub or a dab of paint to flesh out a scene.

It is a museum quality display, the group said, because of all the detail - right down to the silver culverts under the road.

It started as a rough pencil sketch on a piece of paper.

“We didn’t know exactly where things were going to be,” Tuttle said. “We just kept adding things to it as we went along.”

The men periodically give a list of supplies to Laufman, who then purchases the items. The final cost will be less than $2,500, she said.

The creators clearly enjoyed the camaraderie of building the display, which they emphasize is not a replication of a local scene.

“It’s a characterization,” said Gallippi. “We think it’s art, and art isn’t always exactly reality. It’s a representation with a little bit added.”

Tuttle said, “Our audience is little kids, their parents, and probably their grandparents. So the little kids will say, ‘What’s that, Daddy?’ or ‘What’s that, grandpa?’ and they’re going to say, ‘I remember that from the farm,’ or ‘I remember that from this.’ “

One building will have a Kirby Risk logo in honor of the family who made it the display possible.

The model train is scheduled for installation about April 19, when the Columbian Park Zoo opens. Backdrops painted by Victor Collins of Mad Men Creative will be installed behind each scene.

“Hopefully, you’ll stand there and look, and the longer you look at it, the more things you’ll see,” said Luce. “That’s what the idea is.”

“These guys have spent countless hours on this,” said Laufman. “It has far exceeded my expectations.

“I want people to treasure what we have and encourage them to bring others to come see this phenomenal display.”

___

Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide