Model train event a hoot

Published 8:51 pm Monday, March 17, 2014

I was never into model trains as a kid, nor am I as an adult. So when Bob Langer contacted me about the ministry he was planning for his church, I was careful not to let my ignorance get in the way.

In his email, Langer said that Wilroy Baptist Church’s Model Train Expo would be “unique to Suffolk.”

I tried to visualize the scene: a church hall with model trains whizzing around miniature landscapes. Retired men dressed as train engineers seated behind the controls. Excited children, who even got to take a turn at being a driver.


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After witnessing the event on Saturday, my pre-event visualization was in the ballpark, but not spot-on. The biggest thing that surprised me was the degree of detail in the models.

Most of the detail was impressive, but it was still pretty much what you would expect — fields with farm animals, cars and trucks on the roads, freight yards, water towers, places of businesses. But one thing really captured my attention.

Someone from the Tidewater Modular Railroad Club, which was one of three model railroad clubs Langer had lined up for the expo, went to the trouble of portraying a dinosaur-dig beside the tracks. A neatly dug hole in the ground revealed what I think was a tyrannosaurus.

“I’ve seen model (train) layouts where they’ve had dinosaurs; I’ve seen a lot of things like that,” Langer said when a reporter pointed out the dino-dig.

“There’s a lot of imagination in this. My model railroad at home, I based it on a real railroad; but really, it’s in my mind’s eye.”

By about 1 p.m., Langer said, there had been about 92 people through the door for the event.

While some of them, like me, probably were not model train buffs, all of them, again like me, appreciated the detail and skill put into each of the three sets on display.

Langer had said his objective was to introduce the church to its neighbors, and I would say he and his team did that admirably.

I’ve seen churches do other different secular-type things to get folks in the door, like car shows, but this was definitely the first model train expo I’d seen.

I’m not about to race out and buy a model train set, but I’ve learned more about a local church that I knew nothing about before, and now I better understand the psychology of the model train buff. Those are both positive results.