Model train enthusiasts from around Arkansas will meet in Conway on Saturday at an open house event sponsored by the Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club.

The operating layouts and displays will fill the community room of the McGee Center in Conway,and will include a HO-scale modular train layout as big as a four-stall garage. 

"There’s a lot of diversity in the train hobby," said CAMRC President Emeritus Daniel Gladstone of Greenbrier. "That’s why we like to show several different sizes of trains from small to large in action." Gladstone explained that visitors to the event will see a very small, N-scale, fully scenicked train layout contained in a suitcase, a "kid-powered" push-toy wooden train layout for younger engineers, a 1940s-era O-gauge train layout, and a G-gauge circus train with animals in the cars.

The CAMRC HO-scale modular layout project began in 2008, and club members have added sections to it since then. 

Bill Smith, of Conway, designed a farm scene with an outbuilding under construction and a faux tunnel. 

Don Hansen, of Conway, created a 1880s-era western town with buildings that are accurate renderings of the style of that period.

"We want to grow and diversify the layout, club trackmaster Will McFadden of Conway said. "We now have four club-owned corner modules and many member-owned straight modules. With T- and H- and E-shaped modules, we could create a more interesting layout than a simple square or rectangle."

Modular sections on display at the event each contain a unique scene created by its owner.  

One module depicts a crash-landed UFO. One corner presents a faithful recreation of the Bates Motel and house from the Alfred Hitchcock classic movie "Psycho" and even includes lightning and thunder effects. The large footprint of this layout accommodates several trains running simultaneously. 

"Using both analog and digital command control, we can have some high-tech fun with the trains," club member David Ware said.  

Ware said that several club members run steam-profile locomotives, many of which include sound effects.

Junior engineers will learn how to operate the four Thomas and Friends trains on a four-track HO-scale layout. 

"The Thomas series of books and videos and The Polar Express book and movie have stimulated an interest in model railroading in today’s generation," said Mike Mottler, conductor of the Isle of Sodor train layout created under the auspices of CAMRC. "Many children know the names of the Thomas locomotives, cars and accessories. They’ve read about the characters in the Thomas books, viewed the videos, or watched the PBS TV series derived from the stories."

An 8-by-20-feet HO-scale modular layout created by CAMRC members will also be in continuous operation. Each module has its own theme. One unit includes a mountain with a dam and spillway, a bike path with a trailside diner and a cave of bears. Another module depicts a rural hillside campsite and lake, and another is a farm-based section with a tall grain elevator.  

Club members will be on-hand to answer questions about the hobby and conduct demonstrations. 

The Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club also meets the first Monday of every month at Mazzio’s in Conway.

For more information about the event or the Central Arkansas Model Railroad Club, visit www.artrains.org.

(Staff writer Megan Reynolds can be reached by e-mail at megan.reynolds@thecabin.net or by phone at (501) 505-1277. To comment on this story and others, visit www.thecabin.net)