JIM DAVENPORT OVERSEES HIS WORLD. Photo Provided
On entering the Cottage Grove Armory, the magic sound of wheels on track of model trains was intoxicating. The timbre is so familiar, having trains regularly passing through the Grove, yet diminutive.
Another thing that arrests your attention is the excited kids, who can scarcely keep their feet on the ground while taking in the various setups of model railways in operation. It is Lane County's Largest Train Show, organized by the Willamette Cascade Model Railway Club (WCMRRC).
With the armory floor space of 60 feet by 102 feet packed wall to wall with train setups, I believe it. It is the third annual show in CG, having been invited by Chamber of Commerce Director Travis Palmer who saw the group's display at the Drain Train Show. City Manager Richard Meyers also has been an ardent supporter and aided in getting WCMRRC to add the Armory to their dizzying yearly schedule.
When talking with club president Lee Temple, he laid out the club's annual calendar of events that left me exhausted just hearing about it. The WCMRRC is coming up on 50 years of existence. Started in 1970, the club has an impressive track record of annual shows. This coming year will mark the 40th appearance at Valley River Center the third weekend in January, one of their most popular shows. The WCMRRC has been displayed at every Drain show through its various incarnations for at least 20 appearances. In more recent times they helped the South Coast Train Club get an annual show going at the Pony Valley Mall in North Bend, (now on to their fourth show coming up.) Plus they have a Swap meet in April, one of the west coast's largest.
Club members bring their incredibly detailed displays of nearly every gauge of model railway from the tiny to large G scale often used in outdoor displays. This large train set up serves as a memorial to club members who now operate tracks in the heavenly plane. The WCMRRC, which is a nonprofit 501C4, offers other services to the community. One is to make the public aware of ways to keep trains, cars and pedestrians safe when their paths cross. They work to promote safety through Operation Lifesaver, a national organization to educate the public to some simple safety rules where trains are concerned. Another mission of WCMRRC is to bring the next generation into the hobby. Perhaps no better example exists than Dan Scheidell, who joined the club at age seven and now is on the club's B.O.D. at 22.
In viewing all of the creativity of the model railroaders, I was particularly impressed with Jim Davenport's model community. Davenport, a visual artist in his own right and an art teacher before retirement, lives in Coos Bay. He is an example of how dedicated club members are in that they are willing to travel long distances and spend great energies for their art.
Jim's model town requires at least twelve hours just to set up. The artistry and details are incredible and you can really lose yourself in a miniature world he has created. There are businesses, houses, gardens, surf scenes, golf course a la Pebble Beach and all the citizenry to people this idyllic world. You can see folks working in the garden, taking care of business, even relaxing in a hobo camp by the tracks. I was intrigued by a sign which asked: ”Can you find...?” I had to finally ask for help on locating a herd of wapitis, native for elk. I would love to see his massive home display that is 12 feet by 36 feet that you can enter and have the 360 degree experience and be surrounded by 84 feet of mural. Jim Davenport has paintings hanging in the Coos Art Museum among others, but his railway canvas in the Cottage Grove Armory was a masterpiece in my opinion.
If you missed the show this year, I will try and let you know about the next year's so that you do not repeat this error. To learn more about catching the bug of model railways or for help dusting off your old train set, reach out to the Willamette Cascade Model Railway Club at: http://www.wcmrrc.org or Facebook.com/wcmrrc.