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Much more than a hobby

Fox Run model railroad club brings passion, artistry to its projects

Created date

March 26th, 2013

Ed MacDowell has been fascinated by railroads since he was a child. In fact, he started constructing model railroads as a hobby when he was just ten years old. Decades later, Ed still meticulously creates replicas of his favorite railways. Only now, Ed has 20 buddies to work with on building model railroads plus a spacious and fully-equipped hobby shop where he can perfect his craft. Ed, a retired mechanical engineer, now lives at Fox Run, the Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich. About six and a half years ago, Ed and his wife Harriet moved from Franklin to Fox Run, where they now enjoy maintenance-free living, access to dozens of social clubs, and the camaraderie of hundreds of other active and like-minded retirees.

Workin on the railroad

A little more than four years ago, Ed and some of his neighbors approached Fox Run administration about turning a space previously used for community storage into a hobby and woodworking shop. Staff cleared the space, and the hobbyists began stocking it with wood, paint, saws, and all kinds of other equipment. The members of the hobby and woodworking shop fund the cost of supplies through annual membership fees and other donations. Everything in here was built by residents, Ed says proudly. We had 15 guys who wanted to build a model railroad. So, the ambitious gang formed a model railroad club. People with a variety of different backgrounds signed up to lend a hand. Farmington Hills transplants Cliff Holforty, a retired architect and civil engineer, and Wil Lynn, formerly an electrical engineer, joined the club. Another member s father was a railroad station manager. Others, like Gil Knight, who moved from Shelby Township and spent his career working in government, are long-time model railroad enthusiasts. I ve been doing model railroads since I was a kid, Gil says. Most of our members have some experience. Ed says the group s first project was a Christmas-themed railroad. Club members set it up in one of Fox Run s clubhouses that Christmas, and they continue to display it for their neighbors to enjoy every holiday season.

A ride through history

Currently, Fox Run s model railroad club is in the process of constructing a replica of the Pere Marquette Railway, a Great Lakes regional railroad that ran through Novi en route from Detroit to Grand Rapids. We re modeling it to look like June of 1950, when Novi had a population of 200, Ed says. When we re done, you should be able to recognize some of the significant buildings. To create a model of the Pere Marquette, Ed says, the group uses a book that shows data about towns on the route during the 1950s. They study the photographs and create three-dimensional replicas of buildings, landscape, and other scenery. Ed says the group scours flea markets to find model Pere Marquette railway cars. One of the members even painted the walls in the hobby shop pale blue to represent the sky. The impressive model features a working train that runs on the track and abundant details that bring the scene to life. Ed says he and his fellow model railroaders are taking their time on the Pere Marquette project: We don t have a timeline. It will be done when we say it s done. In the meantime, the group enjoys spending time collaborating on the project, with each member putting his or her individual talents to work. Best of all, the hours they spend huddled over the table in the hobby shop gives these Fox Run neighbors a chance to get to know one another better and bond over their shared interest. We get together for work sessions, and it s a lot of fun, Ed says. We each have different aspects of the project that we re interested in.