- 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.”

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