Ponca City model train club seeks members

by Jordan Green

The evening hadn't really begun until Rodger walked in.

“Good evening, Gentlemen. And you too, Kelly,” he dryly joked.

On Monday night, Kelly had come down to a basement in downtown Ponca City with his friends – of which Rodger was one – as he had done for years. In friendship, the five men were coupled together like boxcars on a train.

They were there for one reason: to preserve locomotive history.

For a number of years, the North Central Oklahoma Model Railroad Club has served as a way for local train enthusiasts to share their love of model trains. Members buy and build their own scale-model trains and get together twice a week to operate them.

And now, the club is looking to find new members who have a passion for model railroading.

The five current members of the club – Rodger Cline, Paul Doepel, Dale Henshaw, Warren Lloyd, and Kelly Martin – each came about their love of trains in a different way.

For some, they were first exposed to model trains at Christmastime, when their parents would put a steam-train under the tree.

“I was always fascinated with trains as a little boy,” said Martin. “As I've gotten older, I've gotten more fascinated with modeling trains that are no longer around.”

Others got their feet wet through their occupations.

“I started working around trains at a railroad museum,” said Lloyd, who is now an engineer with the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad.

And for others, they got involved with trains just because they wanted something to do.

“It gets me out of the house and breaks up the monotony,” Cline said.

But no matter how they found out about trains, the important thing, they say, is that they still enjoy them today.

Much like the members' love of locomotives, the club was built from the ground up. Most of the wooden tables used to hold train tracks were built by the club's members over the years, as were some of the tracks themselves.

“Each 60-foot section of track equates to one 'scale mile,'” said Cline, the club's unofficial historian. “We've got 26 scale-miles of track. We just added 15 feet to get us to that number.”

The tables on which the 26 miles of track lie are called “layouts.” Each table is covered with model train-tracks and scenery, such as miniature houses, cars, buildings, and people, all in an effort to make the set-up look more realistic.

When building and maintaining the layouts, each member has his own job.

“Kelly cleans the tracks,” said Rodger. “Warren and I set up the tracks, and Dale does most of the scenery.”

“Everybody finds something they like to do,” Henshaw added.

The main layout is in the shape of an “inverted 'E,'” as Cline says. Three sections of truck jut out from the largest portion of the layout, allowing model engines to tow long lines of train-cars up and down the tracks without ever having to stop. Nearby, another one is modeled after the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad; the towns of Blackwell, Braman, and Wellington, KS are marked on it.

When asked how many engines and cars the members of the club have in total, Lloyd laughs. “Start counting,” he joked.

“I've got at least 100,” said Henshaw.

Model trains are produced in many different sizes, called “scales.” The models are produced in a direct ratio to the trains they're designed, or scaled, after. The club has a layout for each scale: G, H-O, O, N, Lionel, and Marx tinplate.

The wide variety in scales and layouts allows members to put just about any kind of train they want to on the tracks – including trains that can be operated from a cell phone.

The main layout is called a DCC layout, which stands for digital command control. Locomotives equipped with DCC technology have an internal processor that receives electronic commands from either a remote control or an app on a smartphone. The operator can control the train's speed and direction at the touch of a button, all by entering the number of the locomotive into the controller.

“They're pretty good with all that technological stuff,” Martin joked.

While the members are good at sorting out technological issues, what they haven't yet figured out is what to do with all the extra space they have – other than gain new members.

“There are only five of us, so we have more space than we used to,” Cline said. “We're always looking for new members.”

The club meets in the basement of Kem's Gym, located at 105 East Grand Avenue, every Monday and Thursday from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. Those who are looking to join the club can do so by calling one of the members. Cline's phone number is 580-716-2642; Henshaw's phone number is 580-401-0717; and Martin's phone number is 580-716-3349.

“If you want to join, give us a call,” Cline said. “We've got lots of track.”