Right on track

Christopher Hamilton looked at the model trains circle the track through eyes of wonderment.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

The Clovis Area Train Society provided a model railroad layout exhibit Saturday at the Roosevelt County Fair. A model New Mexico Rail Runner train rides through a small town.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Greg Jennings, vice president of the Clovis Area Train Society, wipes the railroad tracks clean Saturday at their model railroad exhibit.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Lilly Grogan sits on her father David Grogan's shoulders as they admire a train model of the New Mexico Rail Runner. The Grogans came to Portales to celebrate Lilly's birthday with her grandmother Robin Montano.

The 7-year-old from Las Cruces said he loves trains and cherishes the antique model train his grandfather gave him. He showed his appreciation for the trains on display Saturday at the Roosevelt County Fair by the Clovis Area Train Society.

"I think they're great," Hamilton said. "I own trains too. Every Christmas I set up my train set with my grandpa. I get to choose where the tracks are going to be and what to put on them."

James Aldrich, electrical superintendent with the train society, said reactions like Hamilton's are the reason they display them.

"I do it for the reactions of the people when they see the trains, not just the little kids but the big kids too," Aldrich said. "Seeing their eyes and the enthusiasm of all the people makes me happy."

Aldrich said it was their 15th year providing the train exhibit at the Roosevelt County Fair.

The layout of their exhibit was 16 by 48 feet. They ran two trains, one was a replica of the New Mexico Rail Runner.

They were careful not to have collisions though they have occurred before. According to Aldrich, though he didn't know the exact speed the trains were traveling. He said the speed is actually scaled down from the original train it replicates.

Each individual model can take up to 100 hours to build and it took them about four hours to build the layout Saturday before they ran the trains.

One of Aldrich's favorite train models contains 61 cars that represent the nation's 50 states, territories and armed forces. He said it's two and-a-half miles long when running.

Aldrich said he got his first train set back in 1967 and played with it for a while before joining the Air Force. He retired at Cannon Air Force Base and said most of their train society members are either active duty or retired military.

"It doesn't matter what you do though, you just have to have an interest in model railroading," Aldrich said.

He said the society has 13 active members from Clovis, Portales, Fort Sumner and Lubbock.

"It allows you to hone your skills in a bunch of areas including model structure, scenery and operation," Aldrich said. "It just comes with the hobby."

David Grogan, a railroad engineer from Clovis living in Albuquerque, said he has worked with the Rail Runner before.

While celebrating 6-year-old daughter Lilly's birthday at the fair, he said Lilly pointed out the train her father works on.

"She's got to see the trains in person so she's excited," Grogan said.

Greg Jennings, society vice president, said trains such as the Rail Runner and the scenery they create are used to inspire memories.

One of the scenery models on display was reminiscent of the Clovis drive-in movie theater.

Jennings said their group is currently working on the restoration of the historic engine that moved from Hillcrest Park that Walt Disney Pictures recently used in a film.

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