Originally Published: May 30, 2008 10:06 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Larry Davis has been "on track" since the age of 4 or 5 when his grandfather, Charles Snyder, introduced him to the iron horse.
Davis, 60, of Prescott Valley recalls Snyder taking him within 4 feet of the railroad tracks of the former Pennsylvania Railroad in Corydon, Pa.
"I was kind of scared a little bit," Davis said Friday morning at the All Aboard Model Train and Airplane Show at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds. "I never saw anything as big in my life."
Davis said he became a model train hobbyist at the age of 13. He retired in 2000 after working 25 years for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and moved from Egg Harbor City, N.J., to Prescott Valley.
A year later, Davis said he started the layout for a trans-American track that measures 36 feet by 10 feet, including its two circular tracks. His creation is a work in progress in which "you constantly add scenery."
Davis displayed his layout at the train and plane show, a fundraiser for the Prescott Valley Military Service Monument that will stand near the Ed Seder Law Enforcement Center. The Chino Valley Model Aviators Inc., Sergeants Hobby Shop and the Mountain Valley N-Scale Group are conducting the event, which continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday on the second floor of the grandstand building at the fairgrounds. Admission is $5.
Davis's layout features 22 modules that measure 2 feet by 4 feet. Electric-powered miniature trains ride on tracks that take them past numerous landmarks stretching from the Heceta Head Lighthouse on the Oregon coast to Pompano, Fla. Glassford Hill in Prescott Valley is the only local landmark.
Davis said he used birch or oak plywood for the sides and outside rims, and MDF board for the tops. He used plastic materials to shape into buildings, and foam to make mountains.
He said he covered the foam with watered-down wood putty, and used acrylic paint for the landmarks.
He credits Diane Matthews of Prescott Valley for painting some panels, including most of Mount Rushmore.
"This comes from your heart," Davis said about his hobby. "You just really love it."
Like Davis, ex-Marine Jeff Brown of Prescott took an interest in model trains at an early age, and is passing it down to his 10-year-old son, William.
"I like all the details and stuff," said William, who recently completed fourth grade at Wash-ington Traditional School in Prescott. "Trains have lights and stuff."
William said he has boarded only one train in his life - at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. His father said he wants to take William on the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams.
Unlike model trains, another hobby appeals to people who may be less "grounded": model planes.
"It is an active sport that you get to fly what you create," said Randy Meathrell, president of the Chino Valley aviators.
Meathrell, a retired aeronautical engineer who has been a hobbyist since elementary school, pointed out an assortment of model airplanes that hobbyists made largely from balsawood and foam.
They range from an electric-powered helicopter that weighs about 5 ounces to a large, twin-engine, gasoline-powered plane that weighs 11 pounds.
"It's a great hobby. It keeps us out of the bars and chasing women," Meathrell quipped.
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