Friday, August 2, 2019

Winchester columnist tells the story of the Grants and their model railroad of Midway, recently restored

Laurine Grant and daughter Jeanine Lister watched the trains run.
By Bill McCann
The Winchester Sun

I grew up with a limited view of the arts—theatre, dance, art, music, and writing, each in their various forms. But I am coming to realize that the arts are actually much wider—from painting a sermon to building a scale-model railroad layout.

Heritage Day, July 27, in Midway honored Laurine Grant of and her late husband Bill for their construction and donation to Midway of an N-scale (9mm track width) model railroad of the town.

Grant, 83, moved to Winchester in August 2018. Before that she lived in Vermont for 15 years. And before that, from about 1997 to 2000, she was a citizen of Midway.

Laurine was married for more than 50 years to William Grant. Bill Grant was a heavy equipment operator in Connecticut for more than three decades, a union member who was able to provide well for his family—particularly during the period from March to November of each year. But during the long Northeast winters, when he was laid off, he was a model railroader.

Bill and Laurine Grant raised four daughters—Shannon, Lisa, Jeanine, and Anne—who after high school mostly scattered to the four winds: Connecticut (Shannon); Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado (Anne); Kentucky (Lisa); Arizona and Kentucky (Jeanine). In the course of time grandchildren came, Bill retired, and the couple followed—not the swallows to Capistrano, but visited or lived near their daughters and grandchildren.

During the 1980s, while Bill still worked, Lisa and her family lived in Midway and Bill and Laurine came south for visits. And almost immediately, the model railroader was hooked: Midway, the city a railroad runs through. Suddenly he had a vision: of an N-scale model of Midway for his trains.

After retiring from his construction job, Bill and Laurine moved to North Carolina to be near Anne, her husband and children. Still, Bill was a model railroader. And in 1997, they moved to Midway to be near Lisa and her family; Jeanine and her family lived in Lexington, but the pull of Midway’s trains and ongoing work on the train layout was in their minds when choosing where to live.

By 2000 the layout was complete. So before Bill and Laurine hit the road full-time in an RV camper, they donated their N-scale model of Midway to the town.

In the years since, the layout was stored away. However, this year the Midway Community Model Railroad Project’s plan to restore and expand the layout generated a lot of local support.

Finally, on Saturday at high noon, Mayor Grayson Vandergrift had a dedication ceremony where he began by saying that the community of Midway “embraces its history” as a railroad town. Then he thanked Mrs. Grant for the hard work of she and her husband and the donation of the layout to the community of Midway, before thanking the many local people and businesses that had helped restore and expand the model.

That’s the story of what happened. And as a story, it’s a pretty interesting one.

But by now you must surely have the same question I had when going to the dedication of the layout: Why is this art? You buy some plywood, paint it green, add some tracks, buy plastic buildings and trees and tape or tack them down and you have a model train set. Not so!

Truly, great art, and a large amount of time, was involved in this effort.

Jeanine Grant Lister, who now lives in Winchester, explained that tiny little spikes—“You have to use tweezers and a tiny hammer” to put the spikes in—hold down the rails. “And the buildings were made and painted by my parents, though I did make trees and helped paint the silo.” The silo, she said, was made from “part of a toilet paper roll.”

Pictures of the layout which accompany the article may give you some sense of the artistry involved in painting objects that are scaled between 1:148 and 1:160, so a 6-foot man would be roughly 1/3 of an inch tall! A train car in this scale is only a bit more than an inch tall and a few inches long. The buildings require a delicate touch and great care. Building and painting such people, buildings and scenery is truly an artistic undertaking.

Mayor Vandergrift finished speaking by saying that the Midway railroad layout would have a permanent place of honor in the town “soon.” Then he asked Mrs. Grant to speak.

“Thank you” was all she said, to great applause.

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