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.