With gears clicking and lights blinking, the weekend-long Newhall Model Train Show entertained train aficionados of all ages at William S. Hart Park’s Hart Hall.
Featuring a massive track and several different landscapes, members of the High Desert Modular Model Railroad Club welcomed park visitors and answered any questions they might have about the hobby. Anyone who has skills with model trains can join, as the group’s members vary in age, with their president Pat Ray as the youngest member at 45.
“Even the park people, the first year that we were here, they had a hard time comprehending what we do,” said the club’s media director, Lynn McCurdy. “They thought, ‘Well, maybe we had something out in the parking lot to ride on,’ but no, it’s indoors.”
Club members work together to bring something new to the public wherever they go, McCurdy said. With help from the scenery director, Benny Diaz, large and new sets occupy displays with the small locomotives in the foreground. With a love of history, Diaz crafted a handmade miniature of the USS Missouri in scale with a dock and other vehicles glued in place. Beside it rested a wooden bridge with a waterfall behind it, sans running water.
“Everybody has their own way with passion and trains and stuff, but my inspiration is when I see something, I want to build it,” Diaz said. “It just goes in my head, and I get inspired doing it and I can’t stop. And I’m a plumber, I work full-time, but you got to have your little hobby to have fun.”
What some guests took away from the display is not needing to go far to see closed-off or distant sites, like Efrain Valdivia and his family. Visiting from Sylmar, he said that you could go as far as Monterey or along the Grapevine, but this made traveling feasible for them.
“It’s very impressive, the work these guys do to put everything together,” Valdivia said. “It’s a neat experience for the kids. I mean, they get to get around.”
Diaz plans to continue setting up history-based displays, including the USS Arizona before it sank at Pearl Harbor, and a Civil War-era landscape with ironclad ships.
“As long as I can stay healthy and young and strong,” he said, “I can do it.”