Model train enthusiasts gather

Jim Connal, bent his elbows, turned his palms to the ceiling, shrugged and told his audience that thats all there was to it.

After all, his clinic at the train show Sunday afternoon at Saunders Middle School was entitled, “Scenery, Fast & Easy”

Connal taught a group of model railroad enthusiasts how to build a sedimentary rock hillside made of newspapers, paper towels, plaster and white glue in less than 30 minutes.

In between steps for assembling the rocky hillside, Connal also showed how to construct a grassy hill side using the same building materials.

The audience of about seven looked stunned. They didnt know it could be so easy.

Connal told his audience that their project, if done in other than a demonstration mode would take the better part of a weekend.

Ideally, Connal said, its best to let the first layer of plaster dry before applying the second coat.

Still his hillside looked impressive and very much like stone.

Connal told his small group of impromptu students not to get discouraged if their first hillside was not to their liking.

He said it might take a couple of attempts to learn how to mix the plaster to the correct consistency or figure out when, in the drying process, to begin carving stones in the plaster.

“Theres a rule of thumb,” Connal told his audience. “Layout number four is always better than layout number three.”

Connal also said its a good idea to really look closely at rocks and things to get an idea about their appearance

“Youd be amazed at how many colors are in rocks. Its just natures way. There are a lot of colors in nature,” he said.

Connal, and other members of the Prince William County Model Railroad Club came to the train show, sponsored by Dale City Boy Scout Troop 964, where people wandered around and looked at little trains that rolled past houses farms and fields.

Robin Barrows ran a clinic on how to build portable platforms with a few drywall screws, wood glue and scrap lumber.

The idea behind the portable platform, Barrows said, is that each club member can build at least one platform, complete with miniature towns, factories and graveyards, full of rusted automobiles.

Members may bring their platforms and put them together with others to create entire worlds for the trains to go through.

“Weve got 90 members in our club alone,” Barrows said.

The goal is to get as close to reality, in miniature, as possible.

One of the little towns by the railroad tracks included an accident, complete with a police cruisers from Manassas City, Prince William County and the State police.

Lights from the little police cars flashed on a helicopter waiting to fly the injured to an area hospital — Inova Fairfax probably.

Barrows said the trick to an authentic looking train scenery is weathering.

“Plastic styrene looks like plastic styrene even when its painted,” Barrows said

“We add dirt, rust and film … all of the things mother nature would throw at it,” he said.

Boy Scouts Donnie Andrews and Steve, both of troop 964, attended the train show that was packed with visitors.

“It was fun,” Andrews, 14, said. “I got to drive the trains.”

Gallo, 18, said he enjoyed being above the scenery.

“Its like flying almost. You can see every thing from above,” he said.

“I like that,” Gallo said and pointed to a particular platform with a scale model of a familiar landmark.

“Its a duplicate of the Possum Point power plant,” he said.

For more information on model trains, visit or call (703) 360-9310.

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