Friday, August 19, 2011

Tiny trains, big fun

From Our Tri Lakes Tiny trains, big fun
Members of the Pikes Peak “N” Gineers Model Railroad Club get around just about as much as the trains they model. They go on field trips to train-related attractions, take rides on “real” trains and, about once a month, put on a model railroad show somewhere around the state.

Most recently the club could be seen at the Rocky Mountain Chautauqua Assembly in Palmer Lake.

Their passion, model railroads, come in a variety of sizes. N-scale trains, for instance, have 9 mm between the rails. The club was formed by about 60 N-scale, model-train enthusiasts in 1989 and has recently opened a small facility in Colorado Springs.

Over the years they’ve moved around quite a bit but they’ve kept their Monument mailing address. Members live all over the Front Range from Woodmoor to Fountain and some members live in California, Tennessee and even Germany.

“When we formed the club there wasn’t a Z-scale, which is about half the size of N-scale, but there were a lot of larger scales,” said club charter member and superintendent Mike Peck. “There is the HO-scale, about 18-20 mm between the rails, the O-standard scale and the G-scale, also called Garden Scale — you’d need a lot of outdoor space for that one.”

Club member Lester Coburn said the N-scale locomotives have Digital Command Control chips inside them that control lights and sounds and allow two model trains to run on the same tracks at the same time.

“N-scale is standard around the world,” he added. “If I take my trains to Australia, I can run them there with no modifications.”

The club’s model railroad layout is housed at 32 S. Sierra Madre St. in Colorado Springs, in the old Denver & Rio Grande Western depot. That’s where club members come to work on the models. The train yard module, where all the electronics are located as well as the drawbridge — which opens to let people inside the layout — are owned by the club. The rest of the modules on site are built by club members. Some of these are modeled after actual places, such as the Moffat Tunnel, a 6-mile long tunnel through James Peak that was originally built for the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad.

As might be expected of a charter member, Peck’s association with trains and modeling started early. He was introduced to the hobby by his father as a boy.

“He and his brother used to go down to the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek (District) railroad tracks and measure the cars,” he said. “Then they would come home and build models to scale from scraps.”

One of the first models Peck and his father worked on was a flat car.

“I thought I could finish it in one day but he made me take five,” Peck said. “He wanted me to be meticulous but that took me awhile.”

Most modelers don’t make their own cars because they can be bought ready to run.

“Railroad modeling isn’t just about the trains,” Peck said. “It’s about making everything look as real as possible.”

That’s why the club offers monthly scenery clinics for its members. They learn the tricks behind making realistic trees, rocks, grass and water, for example.

Peck’s wife, Mary, also a club member, specializes in painting backdrops. “We’re all artists in one way or another,” she said.

When the club has a show, the traveling layout comes out of storage.

“If we have a lot of helpers we can set it up in about an hour and a half,” Peck said. “It typically takes about 40 minutes to tear down no matter how many helpers we have because we don’t have to level everything and make sure all the couplings work.”

When they have a two- or three-day show, they get out the layout they received from actor Gary Coleman a few years ago, Peck said.

For more information about the club, including dues information and an events calendar, visit or call 719-550-1780.

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