Radcliff Model Railroad Association members feel on right track with hobby

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By Robert Villanueva

Helicopters, tanks and barracks dot the property of a 1970s-era Army fort. Not far away, Victorian-style homes with porches that sport hanging flower baskets line the streets of a small town where a park and gas station lend an air of simplicity to life there.


These scenes are dwarfed by members of the Radcliff Model Railroad Association as they move around the layouts constructed for their trains.

“It’s a good hobby because it combines carpentry and a little bit of artistry,” Jim Dierickx, club member, said. “Electronics, electric, a little bit of everything.”

About 25 members make up the club that began in 1984, said President Jerry Fangel.

“We have active duty members and retired members and members from the civilian populace,” Fangel said.

The non profit association has changed locations a few times over the years and now makes its home at 1375 N. Wilson Road in Radcliff.
The unifying factor is interest the club’s members have in trains.

“First train I had was 1954,” Larry Pursell, club operations and planning coordinator, said. “I was 6 years old. I’ve been in love with them ever since.”

For Fangel, the interest in trains grew naturally from his growing up around the railroads in St. Paul, Minn. During high school he worked in a hobby shop, which further encouraged his interest, he said.

Club Vice President Joe Lowery developed his interest in trains at a hobby shop as well.

“I used to be interested in model airplanes,” he said.

Dierickx began building layouts in the early 1950s but had become interested in trains before that.

“I started with Lionel trains in the 1940s,” Dierickx said.

Club members don’t have to be proficient in all areas of building layouts, he said.

“There’s a lot of mentoring that goes on,” Dierickx said.

The 4,200 square feet of space the club calls home includes four layouts: one traveling layout and three permanent layouts. The traveling layout is constructed to be broken down and reassembled for shows.

Scenes of mining camps and small towns, populated with houses, stores, vehicles and residents, are the work of members who are all free to submit ideas and suggestions.

“So everybody has ownership of an area,” Fangel said.

One area representing eastern Kentucky coal mining even has a moonshiner complete with still.

Members Ashley Damon and her husband, Tony, have contributed to the scenery. Though many pieces of scenery are bought, constructed and painted, sometimes creating parts of a scene, such as fences, comes down to improvising and using other items that are painted.
“We try to do it the best we can do it for the least amount of price,” Ashley said.

Not only have they built scenes, but Ashley has painted the walls of the main room to represent countryside and sky.

Member Tom Boisvert said scenes such as his early 1900s mining camp require a lot of time.

“You don’t build one in a day and a half,” he said.

Materials such as plastic foam and ceiling tile are used to create some of the landscape, Boisvert said.

The layouts in the room represent a lot of effort.

“There’s probably a couple thousand hours of work total here,” Fangel said.

Club members are not the only ones who enjoy and appreciate the work, though.

The club also has provided displays for places such as the Hardin County History Museum and the Radcliff Tourism and Convention Bureau, and the club takes their work to shows, Fangel said.

Additionally, church groups and schools are among those who contact the club to see the displays.

“We like to explain what we’re doing, show them what we’re doing,” Dierickx said.

If the doors to the Radcliff Model Railroad Association shop are open, anyone can come in, he said. Visitors will likely see works in progress.

“In model railroading we say we’re never finished,” Fangel said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.