Rebuilding History

Father and son enjoy creating replicas of Colorado tunnels, towns

This photo shows the huge amount of space serious train buffs need to work with in order to display a true working model railroad.

This photo shows the huge amount of space serious train buffs need to work with in order to display a true working model railroad. |

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Two different scales of the Rio Grande engine.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

After taking this water tower out of its padded container, Charles Proudfoot checks for broken parts and snaps on other parts of the water tower that are put away after each exhibit.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Charles Proudfoot watches closely during a test run of his Mudhen modular to find any glitches or misconnections in the system. It was displayed during the Dec. 5 Electric Light Parade.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Charles dons his jeweler’s glasses to view the track up close for proper alignment of two sections. If tracks aren’t aligned properly, all sorts of problems rear their ugly heads and delay the operation of running a model train successfully.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Scot and Charles Proudfoot work together to connect two sections of track.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

There’s Santa waving from the caboose. Technology has kept pace in the railroad hobby arena, as this train has a computer chip embedded in it that can broadcast music, train sounds or announcements of your choice.

Scot Proudfoot stares intently at an Alpine hillside, does it have enough trees, grass and dirt to replicate the real thing he wonders? He delicately moves a few things and with the flip of a tiny switch, a flurry of activity begins.

Scot watches the creation he and his father, Rev. Charles Proudfoot, have built and smiles. A wee size replica of a 282 Mudhen locomotive beats slowly around the tracks. On its journey, it travels through hillside tunnels, historic Colorado sites and eventually chugs its way to the engine house.

As Scot fidgets with switches, visitors crowd into the Community Presbyterian Church on Main Street to marvel at the model railroad. Scot pushes a button and the train whistles, signals flicker and children point and stare.

“We did this last year,” Scot says standing in the middle of the scale model where he has a clear view of the crowd and each train. “So far we have had 60 people come in.”

The Proudfoots set the model up for one day for the Christmas parade festivities on Main Street.

It took Scot and Charles hours to erect the model train set at the church, but it took years and thousands of hours to create.

The Proudfoots’ use some kits and pre-built structures, but prefer to make most everything themselves based on photographs of actual places and structures.

“If you have money, you can get stuff that is already made,” Charles says. “For us it is a time cost.”

Constructing a single tunnel can take 300 hours. Using a base of Styrofoam, Charles carves out a shape and then layers mud and dirt up until all of the Styrofoam is covered. Then the fun begins. Trees, water, bridges, water towers, people and buildings are added to give it life.

Charles began creating replicas of some of his favorite Colorado sites years ago. This model set is based on Alpine and is even covered with dirt Charles collected in Alpine specifically for the model.

While most of the scenery matches up with Creede, Colo., the layout of the tracks does not; however, Charles doesn’t feel this takes away from the replica.

Charles pointed out that the big mill on the corner of the set is a replica of a stamp mill west of Denver, the mines are exact copies of Colorado mines and the engine house is based on one that burned to the ground in 1910.

For Christmas, the Proudfoots added a couple extra surprises. A scale model Santa stood on the caboose and a wreath hangs from the side.

Scot said he got involved with model train building through his father and is now just as passionate about the project.

“I like trains and history,” he said. “And I like to build models.”

Charles, who obtained an undergraduate degree in Colorado history, began making model train sets 30 years ago in St. Louis. At the time, several train enthusiasts got together and formed the Mudhens, a Modular HO Narrow Gauge Model Railroad Society.

The Mudhens got their name from locomotives of the same name used in the early 20th century on the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad, according to the Mudhens Web site.

Even though members live throughout the country today, they still get together every few years to hook their modules together.

“We are all interested in narrow gauge trains,” Charles said.

Besides meeting other train enthusiasts, Charles says he loves the hobby for several reasons.

“There are various aspects of the hobby, that is one of the geniuses of it,” he said. “You can be in for the models, to operate, the history or the art.”

Charles’ love of trains started at an early age. At age 4, he was given his first wind up train set and when he was 5, he received an electric set.

“I was a train nut,” he said. “The fact that my grandfather and great uncle worked on the trains in Colorado,” was a huge draw.

At one time, Charles even considered becoming a train engineer.

“I got a church job instead,” he said.

On Charles and Scot’s drawing board are big plans for six new modules.

“The neat thing about the hobby is unless you damage it, it is there for forever,” Charles said.

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