Model railroading is a hobby that lasts a lifetime, according to central Iowa train enthusiast Brian Oakley. The Des Moines man helped assemble a giant display of working train models that are now chugging through the Science Center of Iowa. Oakley says he and several other modelers have created their own “modules” that are connected together to form one big railroading exhibit, comprised of multiple tracks, carving their way through very detailed towns and landscapes.
He says the goal of modules is to provide small pictures of some scene, things like river crossings, a drive-in movie, a grain elevator or a complete town. The display at the Science Center in Des Moines incorporates four sizes of trains, known by letter designations: G, N, O and H-O. Oakley says he’s been a fan of trains since he was a small boy — and he’ll turn 50 next year.
He says his grandfather used to take him to watch trains when he was a little boy and he says it may just be something in the male gene that attracts them all to big machines. Oakley shares the hobby with his son — and his wife. He says it’s much more than playing with toy trains. For starters, Oakley says he does a lot of research about the history of railroads to accurately depict them in his models.
There’s woodworking in building the framework. There’s art in creating the backdrops and painting models and there’s also understanding of engineering that goes into real trains and into running the model trains. Oakley also does what he calls “weathering,” where he makes new model trains look like they’ve been on the tracks for years. The display at the Science Center of Iowa is going to be up through December 18th, corresponding with the showing of the I-Max movie “Polar Express. For more information, surf to “www.sciowa.org”.