- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Harry Buhler showed children how to run a model train around a track. Eliza Empey, 8, backed up the train and then raced it around the rails past a model train station with tiny people on benches.

Her cousin, Indigo Empey, 5, operated the controls of a train of cars filled with Santa and his friends circling a Christmas tree. She’d played with a wooden toy train before, but not one with a remote control, she said.

“It can do a lot of stuff, and you can stop it and turn it up and down,” she said. “The elves do stuff to make the train go.”

That’s what the annual model railroad exhibition is about at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, reported the Casper Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/2hmoa8E). The show, hosted by the Central Wyoming Model Railroad Association, is a chance for people of all ages to see and even play with vintage to modern trains as they learn about Wyoming’s railroad history, club member Buhler said.

This year’s show, “Wyoming’s Ghost Trains,” features trains from the past and a painting by 14-year-old artist Mandy Blevins. The show is free and open to the public Thursdays through Fridays and features door prizes, items for sale and raffles for a portable layout with extra equipment and Blevin’s original painting.

“It’s education in the form of fun,” Buhler said.

‘Ghost Train’ vision

Blevins procrastinated on her painting, she said. She also painted a piece for last year’s show, but she was nervous about creating an artwork for public display for only the second time. A lot of thought and planning went into the piece, though the painting went fast once she started, said Blevins, who turns 15 in December.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said of seeing it framed on the wall at the museum for the first time.

Blevins has always loved art, and she’s taking it even more seriously as time goes on. She may pursue a career as an art curator. Her favorite artists are her mother, Alicia, who’s a professional artist, and Van Gogh, she said.

Her painting, “Ghost Train,” depicts a moon rising over a silhouetted Devils Tower with a train engine facing the viewers, like it’s coming at them. Blevins used spray paint and acrylic on the piece, coloring the sky a deep blue she remembers from visits to Devils Tower.

“I did the ghost train because the night sky inspired me to do something,” Blevins said.

Glimpse into history

The exhibit also features ghosts from Wyoming’s past in the train models and real historical display items from the club’s collection, Buhler said. There are scale replicas of the steam locomotives and large diesel engines from the 1940s that no longer roll through the countryside.

Real items from the past include a lantern guessed to be from 1918, which conductors once used to signal engineers. Another historical highlight is the wooden sign from a Glenrock depot building constructed in 1920.

Visitors also will find a diorama layout of Casper in the late 1800s and running models, including a vintage locomotive that actually puffs steam and modern sets run by a cellphone app.

The show gives families something to do together that young and old enjoy just as much, said Jason Vlcan of the NHTIC. They can experience the trains hands-on and explore history in the exhibit as well as throughout the museum, he said.

Buhler and other Central Wyoming Model Railroad Association members will be on hand to answer questions, show people how to run the trains and maybe spark a deeper interest in model trains, Buhler said.

“I think it gets people interested in trains again,” he noted. “And it brings families together.”

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com


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