In Another's Words

"The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart - this you will build your life by, this you will become." James Allen

Monday, January 20, 2014

Maine Central Model Railroad, Jonesport, Maine

If you have model trains, it seems you’ll never be lonely.  At least that has been the experience of Harold (Buz) and Helen Beal of Jonesport.  Since they began The Maine Central Model Railroad in 1993, visitors have come from every state in the nation except Arkansas and from dozens of foreign countries from Canada to China.  “When it comes to trains,” says Buz, “they’ll find you.”

And what you’ll find in the 900 square foot converted and enlarged storage shed in Buz and Helen’s front yard will amaze and delight you.  The entire space is filled with HO gauge layout (1/87 scale), leaving just a narrow path for the operator or viewer to follow the train as it makes its nine-minute run throughout Central Maine.  The journey begins at a faithful reproduction of Union Station in Bangor and soon passes Stephen and Tabitha King’s house, modeled from a picture the authors made available.  Locals will recognize many Jonesport landmarks such as the Jonesport Post Office, the Harbor House Bed and Breakfast and the Mansfield House.  The old Machias Railroad Station and the Cape Split Wharf are easily identifiable. 

Even if you know nothing of the region, you’ll recognize the highly detailed handmade scenery as a work of art that surrounds and enhances the entire exhibit.  There is painted sky and realistic six-foot-high mountains.  Some 4000 trees dot the landscape.  The trees are made from natural materials; Sea Heather is used for hardwoods and Northern White Bedstraw, picked in September, stands in for evergreens.  After she gathers and dries the twigs and sprigs, Helen preserves them with a glue and water mixture and covers them with Woodland Scenic Blended Turf.  There are many details and humorous surprises to discover as you make your way around.  Look closely and you’ll see over four hundred tiny animals and people climbing the trails, fishing, boating, working or just sitting or standing around watching the trains go by.  Plan to spend some time or visit often if you expect to see all the details. 

One outstanding feature is the working roundhouse and turntable that is used to put the twenty diesel engines on different tracks.  The model is operated in much the same manner as prototype railroads.  There are three divisions in each operating session, and each division runs six trains in a 24-hour period in the life of the railroad.  Each train has an assigned number of cars that it switches within its allotted time.  There are over 400 freight cars and 200 track switches in the layout, as well as eleven bridges and trestles that span large ravines and water.  Buz has “lost track” of the number of feet of track laid.  Last best estimate was 3000 feet.  The wire used to tie everything together and light all the homes, churches, factories and offices for night viewing, measures in miles now.  It wasn’t always so.

Buz loved train sets all his life.  In 1988 he decided to get back to his old hobby, but in a bigger and better way.  He converted a small outside storage building for his first layout.  That layout and the next three patterns didn’t flow.  Fifth time’s a charm for Beal.  After careful planning, the current design was begun in 1993 and is still evolving.  Relatives and friends became part of the growing project and it became necessary to extend the building to accommodate the larger dimensions of the new layout. 

“Railroad expansion is an almost unending project,” their brochure states.  “There are forever more cars to buy, more figures to place, more buildings and bridges to construct, more trees and grass to spruce things up.  Young and old are welcome to come visit and enjoy the Maine Central Model Railroad.  No need to call, just drop in.  There is no admission fee, but donations to continue the project are always appreciated.”

It is located four miles east of Jonesport town center on Route 187 near Sandy River Beach, or from Route 1 on the Jonesboro end, take 187, the Bay Road, south about seven miles along Chandler Bay and look for the Railroad Crossing Sign at the end of the driveway on the right.      

All aboard! 

Note: This article appeared in the Downeast Coastal Press of September 14-20, 2004 as "Devotees Make Tracks to See Model Railroad."
Ref. Maine, At Last - Out and About Vol. III, Page 82


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