Allan Clark hasn’t been able to shake the habit of tinkering with model trains since he started at age 14.
When asked about his work with trains, he is quick to correct.
“I don’t call it work, or a hobby,” said Clark with a laugh. “It’s a disease. Once you’re infected with it, you’re hooked.”
Clark is one of the innovators behind the interactive model train exhibit currently on display at the Parksville Museum.He’s helped tie together what were once two separate railway tracks, as well as build a miniature mountain range and much of the scenery by hand.
“It’s a combination of skills, interests, techniques, and I suppose art,” said Clark. “It’s an escape from the real world into your own world where you don’t need a permit to build a mountain, to build a tunnel, build a bridge, make a lake, whatever it might be.”
There is a great deal of technical know-how that comes with model train work. Clark says he works with many tricks and techniques that are older than he is.
“It’s really diverse what you can learn just tinkering away at these things,” said Clark. “The skill set runs all the way from basic carpentry to fine model making and in between there’s plaster work, painting, scenery techniques, making trees. The other side is the electronics, electricity.”
The mountain range started as a rough plywood frame. Clark topped it with weaved strips of cardboard, then lay plaster-dipped paper towel and cloth on top. After that, he brush paints and heaps gobs of plaster and then uses a knife to carve the plaster into rock-like formations.
The current display is purposefully left unfinished in some areas, so that would-be railroaders can come and take a glimpse at what it takes to build their own set.
Jim Bennett is one of the driving forces behind getting this exhibit up and running.
So far Bennett estimates that they’ve had 150 people come through in the first three weekends they’ve been open.
The cabin is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.