After Hours: Model train fascination grips midstate

Spy gear and other hi-tech toys related to “Frozen” top the Christmas lists of many children this year, but no child can resist the fascination of model trains, especially when they fill the Century of Flight hangar at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, as they did from Nov. 22-28.

Little boys, young and old, examined the model cities, which included a circus and, of course, an airport, while nine trains on three lines moved continually for the entire week. This year a 1950s era drive-in theater was added to the exhibition, something totally foreign to a child today. Snow covered landscapes, reminiscent of the train ride in “Polar Express,” ramped up the holiday excitement with children propped on elbows, mesmerized by trains traveling through the wintry scenes.

This is the seventh year the Middle Georgia Model Railroad Club has staged the ambitious display at the museum at no charge for a nostalgic trip down a miniature memory lane. This year, related sources of railroad lore participated, including the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. The esoteric experience of riding a train and moving through forest canopies at night or hearing the blast of a train whistle followed by the hustle and bustle of activity at each depot is one every child should have. The re-creation of that in child-size scale will forever hold the young-at-heart in thrall.

For more information on club meetings, which are open to anyone with an interest in model trains, visit


David Keith, dean of the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University, was guest conductor for the Macon Symphony Orchestra’s “A Very Merry Holiday Pops” on Nov. 30 at the Grand Opera House. Building on the success of last year’s holiday concert, the orchestra was joined by the mass concert choir from Beulahland Baptist Church for three numbers, two of which were arranged by their director, Jay Terrell.

Terrell knew his audience well, for the songs were a rousing tribute to the season. The afternoon’s repertoire appealed to all ages with some arrangements taken from favorite seasonal movies such as Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

When the audience was asked to sing along to “Joy to the World” Peggy and Joe Timberlake and Beth and Ken Hammond knew every word to this traditional Christmas carol and obviously enjoyed the holiday fun. If your feet were tired from Thanksgiving’s preparation and Black Friday shopping, Sunday afternoon’s performance had to restore your spirit and inspire you to embrace the season with a smile on your face.

By the way, considering the stellar concerts for which the MSO has an enduring and well deserved reputation, season tickets would make a great gift! Check out the calendar for 2015 at


Having done intricate hand work like petit point, it is unimaginable that the Tibetan monks painstakingly create a “mandala” from tiny grains of sand only to sweep it away afterward, but that is their symbolic tradition -- all material things in life are finite and have no lasting value. The monks traveled to Milledgeville from Atlanta’s Drepung Loseling Monastery for a five-day residency, from Dec. 1-5, their appearance sponsored by Town and Gown Arts.

Their mission is to spread the Buddhist philosophy of compassion, non-violence and mutual understanding among cultures. While in Milledgeville, they lectured about their history, sharing with the crowds who attended each session their ouster from Tibet in the 1950s when the communist regime gained power over the country. The monastery in Nepal, one of the most exquisite in the Middle East, was emptied of all Buddhist icons. The monks display no rancor for being removed from their home or for the murders of their brethren who chose to remain.

The non-profit monastery in Atlanta, associated with Emory University, strives to preserve the history and culture of Tibetan Buddhism in the hopes that one day the monks may return home. Since they do not marry, their number is threatened.

The “mandala,” or sand sculpture, created by the monks for this visit depicted the Buddha of compassion. The process of laying out the design on a flat surface, then applying the colored sand as a painter would apply miniscule dots of paint takes several days. It is heartbreaking to see the sand swept or, as I have seen, blown away. The image, no matter the subject, is startling in its array of colors.

The overwhelming response to the last residency in Milledgeville six years ago prompted the sponsoring organizations to add more speaking venues for last week’s visit, the theme of which was “Mystical Arts of Tibet.”

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or