Model of hope

Elk­ton-area gar­den rail­road draws crowd, helps cause


ca­hamil­ton@ ce­cil­whig. com

— There was an aw­ful lot of fin­ger- point­ing in the back­yard of Don Lebo’s Elk­ton-area home on La­bor Day — when he, once again, put his ex­pan-


sive and highly de­tailed G- scale model train town on pub­lic dis­play to raise money for can­cer treat­ment and research.

Nor­mally, “fin­ger- point­ing” has a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion.

But on Mon­day, it re­flected the awe of chil­dren and adults alike as they watched five model trains roll on some 600 feet of

track snaking through fic­tional Hope, Md., a scenic minia­ture town cre­ated by Don and his late wife, Martha, who had named the idyl­lic burgh.

Martha died of can­cer in March, leav­ing Don, 79, to con­tinue their decade­long D& M Gar­den Rail­road event to raise money for the Union Hos­pi­tal Can­cer Re­source Cen­ter in Elk­ton. He and Martha started work­ing on the Gs­cale model town in 2002 and, shortly af­ter, in­cor­po­rated it into their fundrais­ing ef­forts.

“I’m do­ing OK,” Don said while chat­ting with visi­tors Mon­day af­ter­noon, a few days af­ter he had told the Whig that this would mark his first fundrais­ing event with­out Martha.

Mon­day’s four- hour- long event raised ap­prox­i­mately $ 1,400 for the Can­cer Re­source Cen­ter and of­fi­cially at­tracted 260 visi­tors, based on guest­book sig­na­tures. Given that sev­eral of those sig­na­tures were scrawled on be­half of fam­i­lies, it’s likely that more than 300 peo­ple ac­tu­ally vis­ited.

Most of those visi­tors strolled around the D& M Gar­den Rail­road, paus­ing of­ten to study the plethora of nu­ances found in Hope.

And therein lies the rea­son for the fin­ger- point­ing.

“It’s all in the de­tails,” said Michael Bai­ley, a Ne­wark, Del., res­i­dent who took his son, Bow­man, 6, to see the minia­ture train dis­play.

And those de­tails are more than meets the eye, ac­cord­ing to Bai­ley.

“There’s so much to take in. Over there, you see a road crew fix­ing a pot­hole,” Bai­ley said, point­ing at the tiny toy work­ers as he spoke, be­fore ges­tur­ing to­ward an­other ex­am­ple and com­ment­ing, “And over there, you have peo­ple get­ting ice cream at an ice cream shop.”

Bai­ley said he could ap­pre­ci­ate all the time and work in­vested by the Le­bos to cre­ate the highly imag­i­na­tive Hope, Md. That’s be­cause he and Bow­man have the same type of model train set, al­though theirs is an in­door ver­sion and it isn’t nearly as sprawl­ing and in­tri­cate, Bai­ley added.

“We de­cided to come here and take a peek. It is re­ally some­thing to see,” he mar­veled.

Raytron Leak and his wife, Tierra, came to the event with their chil­dren — R’Cean, 11; Tionna Cur­tis, 11; and Travis, 7 — be­cause they “are gar­den rail­road­ers,” too, and have amassed 41 rail­road cars, giv­ing them a keen sense of the Le­bos’ ac­com­plish­ment when look­ing at their dis­play.

( Don, who had told the Whig last week that he has loved trains for as long as he can remember, still has his first two model trains, which he re­ceived as gifts in 1947, when he was 10. “One still runs real good,” he had noted.)

Leak ap­plauded the at­ten­tion to de­tail.

“See the guy hang­ing from the bridge, paint­ing it, that is very awe­some,” Leak said and then, while ges­tur­ing to­ward an­other sec­tion of Hope, Md., he added, “That car­ni­val scene over there also is a ver y nice touch. I re­ally like that.”

He also gave the Le­bos ku­dos for “kit- bash­ing,” a term Leak uses to de­scribe how some hob­by­ists take pre­fab build­ings con­tained in kits and then add other ma­te­ri­als to make them look more au­then­tic.

“The build­ings in kits look an­i­mated,” Leak said. “But he has per­sonal touches to his build­ings.”

Elk­ton- area res­i­dent James Moore ad­mit­ted that he found him­self point­ing at var­i­ous scenes spot­ted in Hope, Md., as he looked down upon the minia­ture gar­den rail­road town with his wife, Cathryn, and their two sons, Caleb, 9, and Johnathan, 4.

Also spark­ing some of the fin­ger- point­ing, the Moore fam­ily was try­ing to find 15 things listed on a scav­enger hunt sheet given to arriving visi­tors. The list in­cluded “rac­coons in the trash,” “an out­house,” and “ho­bos roast­ing a pig.”

As was the case with most kids in at­ten­dance, Caleb, with pen­cil and pa­per in hand, ap­peared to be on scav­enger hunt mis­sion.

“This is very im­pres­sive,” Moore said of the mas­sive D& M Gar­den Rail­road, adding, “This is for a great cause and it is a great day.”


Elk­ton-area res­i­dent, Cameron Denny, 5, ex­cit­edly points at some­thing in the model train dis­play that has struck his fancy while his fa­ther, Will Denny, leans against the rail­ing behind him and ad­mires the en­tire spread.


A girl looks out over Hope, Md., the name of the model train town cre­ated by Don Lebo and his late wife, Martha, who named the idyl­lic burgh.


An ice house stands among other build­ings in the G-scale model train town.

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