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A visual journey through Wind Crest’s railroad club

Residents build authentic model of Black Hawk mining company

Created date

July 24th, 2012

The railroad club at Wind Crest, an Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., has a big job ahead of it. The members are recreating an authentic model of a Colorado mining town from the 1930s. And they re doing it in a 16- by 16-foot room. The trains start at the staging yard, make their journey in a bi-leveled loop, traverse nearly 80 feet of the lower mainline track (the upper, secondary track is 50 feet), and end up back at the staging yard. The amount of work railroad club members put into the construction of this functioning model would astound anyone. Thousands of tiny pieces combine to make the whole, and it s all constructed by hand with time, effort, and patience.

Every little detail

One-eighth-inch wooden ties made from handcut 2-foot by 6-foot basswood connect the rail. Members distress the wood with brushes and tools to give it an antiquated look, and then they stain it. Each tie must be hand spiked by four tiny spikes to the track, over which the locomotive and cars travel. Club members even sift gravel for the track. The group goes to the city of Black Hawk, the location of the original mining company, and fills five-pound buckets with gravel and stones, which they sift several times to create different consistencies. They then lay the gravel on the track and spray it with diluted glue so it sticks together. On their trips to Black Hawk, the group takes photos of the original track and even the rocks that surround it so they can make the model the colors, the placement of the track and buildings, every detail as authentic as possible. Though the model has been constructed in the room, it is made in removable pieces so that if and when they move to a bigger room, the entire model can be deconstructed in large chunks to keep the integrity of the model when pieced back together.

Silent camaraderie

Each of the 11 members of the railroad club has a passion for trains. It keeps us off the streets, laughs Jim Andersen. They all had model railroads of some kind in their previous houses, and many of them have donated tracks and parts to the club for the current model, as well as future ones. They meet every Thursday for several hours and work in a kind of silent camaraderie. Sometimes they tell jokes and laugh, talk of their old model railroads they each had in their houses. Sometimes they consult with each other on the engineering mechanics of the model. Sometimes they speak about their families and friends. They even hum or sing. And sometimes they work side by side in silence, bonding over the creation of something spectacular. The camaraderie is something they never had when they were building the models alone in their houses. It s the journey that matters, says club member Jim Murphy, not the destination.