SUN CITY CENTER – Sun City Center residents Elaine Emmett and her husband, David, say they’ve always enjoyed the community’s annual Holiday Walk. So this year they decided to share the event with their 5-year-old grandson.
Emmett said she was especially looking forward to touring the SCC Model Railroad Club’s meeting room at the Community Association’s Central Campus with the child, Victor DaSilva of Brandon.
“I knew he’d like to see all of the model trains they have,” she said. She never dreamed her grandson would walk away with his own model train set.
DaSilva was named the club’s 1,000th junior engineer, an honor that netted him a trophy, certificate and model Denver and Rio Grande train set during his visit to the Dec. 14 Holiday Walk.
“I thought they were kidding at first when they told me he was the 1,000th junior engineer,” Emmett said. “When I realized they were serious, I couldn’t believe it. What a wonderful surprise.”
“We love sharing our interest in model trains with children in the community and have been collecting the names of children who visit our club for some time,” said Larry Bruni, club president. “When we realized we were close to signing up our 1,000th junior engineer, we decided to do something special to celebrate.”
Club member Morgan Jones is charged with showing children how to operate one of the club’s model trains. He said he was delighted when Victor DaSilva walked through the club’s classroom door and expressed an interest in running the HO scale train that featured a car carrying a miniature Santa.
“He was very surprised to learn he was the 1,000th junior engineer,” Jones said. “I always love showing kids how to run the train and blow the whistle. But this time was especially memorable.”
Formed by a group of model train enthusiasts in the community, the club will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Its 29 club members meet each Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. to work on model railroads, discuss various issues related to them and operate the club’s numerous model railroad sets. Visitors are welcome during the Friday gatherings.
“Most of us grew up with toy trains and even rode on the real thing,” said Bruni, who caught the model railroad bug from his father-in-law, founding club member Lester Brantner.
However, today’s model railroads are much more sophisticated than those Bruni played with as a child.
“Today, they’re all computer controlled,” he said. “And they’re more realistic than ever.”
Rich Krueger, also a founding member, said model railroading is all about patience and detail.
He spent more than a year designing and building one of the club’s model railroad scenes, including a realistic rock wall fashioned from layers of ceiling tiles with a climber scaling the wall; a miniature village that features a playground with a revolving merry-go-round; and a lake with a resident alligator.
Another scene designed by club members has a forest with more than 700 miniature trees.
“You have to be a bit of an artist, engineer and electrician to build these models,” said 10-year club member Dick Doty. “It’s a hobby that keeps you out of trouble.”
Krueger is hard pressed to explain his lifelong fascination with model railroads.
“I don’t know. I guess it’s the noise, the smoke and the camaraderie of the club,” he said. “I’ve met some very interesting people over the years.”
For more information on the Sun City Center Model Railroad Club, visit www.sccmrrc.org.
D’Ann Lawrence White can be reached at [email protected]