Model railroad club hosts open house at Tolland Art Center

By Rachel Hill - ReminderNews
Tolland - posted Wed., Jan. 2, 2013
Model trains are on display at the Tolland Arts Center Jan. 12 and 13. Photo by Rachel Hill.
Model trains are on display at the Tolland Arts Center Jan. 12 and 13. Photo by Rachel Hill.

When it comes to collecting, Kenneth May has the corner on model trains.  Setting up shop in the Tolland Arts Center for the Tobacco Valley Railroad Modular Layout Club, May and friends are holding an open house the first two weekends in January, when the public is invited to see the display of “HO-scale” model railroads, which takes up the entire space at the Arts Center.

There is much to see here. Features of the layout include bridges, highways, a steel mill, mill town, a diner and a gas station, to name a few of the elements that provide the backdrop for the HO-scale trains, or “half-zero” models, which are 3 and a half millimeters to the typical foot, giving you a 1/87th scale perspective, said May.

“The first ‘zero scale’ trains were the Lionel model trains, which ultimately allowed you to fit more into the landscape,” said May. At first, there were pre-war engines with coiled springs and a clockwork mechanism. Then they graduated, post-WWII, to have an electric powering force and, of course, today they use computer technology for everything from integrating sound to independent control and digital operation, said May.

In terms of the club, May says he’s met a lot of good friends all over New England through the common bond of modular railroads. “It’s a lot of fun to run the trains. Better to run them than just put them on display. It’s a re-creation of a fantasy land. We make them look as real as we can,” said May. “Railroading is not as visible today… there are lots of other distractions out there, but there’s nothing more exciting.”

Richard Tapp attended the open house at the Arts Center. “I used to collect [model railroads], and put them on display at the holidays. Unfortunately, I don’t have the room for them anymore. It was such a fun hobby for me. It’s nostalgic to let them go now.”

May holds meetings at his home in Tolland on Friday nights. The club will also be part of the Railroad Hobby Show at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., on Jan. 26 and 27, where more than 20,000 people are expected to attend.

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