Museum of Aviation features model train displays

wcrenshaw@macon.comNovember 28, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Model trains aren’t just a hobby to Gene Anderson.

For him, it’s therapy, and it changed his life.

He got into model trains in 1968 when he was having trouble controlling his temper. “It taught me to be patient,” he said as he stood next to the intricately detailed model industrial area he constructed as part of a display at the Museum of Aviation.

The industrial area, including an airport on one side, were among his contributions to an elaborate train display with almost 180 feet of mainline track in the Century of Flight Hangar. The display is the result of years of work by members of the Middle Georgia Model Railroad Club. It was the centerpiece of a collection of model trains that were part of the museum’s annual Planes and Trains display.

The trains, including static displays in the Eagle Building, were on exhibit Nov. 17 through Sunday.

Bryan Combs, president of the club, said he got into trains as a teenager, and it greatly influenced his life. It got him interested in electronics, and today he works as an electrical engineer at Robins Air Force Base.

While model trains aren’t at the top of many children’s Christmas wish list anymore, Combs said it’s a good hobby for young people.

“There is so much to learn, whether it’s building kits, or learning about electronics, and just generally how to build things,” he said.

The large track on display is more than just a train, but a history lesson. Part of the hobby, Combs said, is studying history to replicate the buildings along the track. Those include a coal loader, an agriculture station, complete towns and others.

Members built the display by hand, including trees. Some of the buildings were done from kits and modified, while others were built from scratch. Even many of the model cars, vehicles and equipment were built by hand.

While he declined to say how much members have spent on the display, Combs said it is the result of hundreds of hours of work.

Another large display at the event is a long, glass-enclosed replica of a shipyard, including three large freight ships. On one end is a list that includes such things as “cows in a field” that viewers are supposed to find in the display. It was built by the Central Georgia Model Railroad Club and was on display for a year at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Donna Thornton of Warner Robins was there Saturday with her grandchildren. She said they come every year.

“I love the intricacy of the layouts and realism,” she said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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