A longtime model railroad is leaving Lockheed

A 3-decade-old railroad line is shutting down.

Lockheed Martin Model Railroad Club must dismantle its 1,600-square-foot layout, salvaging what can be saved for the day it’s rebuilt somewhere other than the building it has been in for 31 years.

“We are being forced to move as a result of the [Lockheed Martin] Recreation Association selling most of its acreage to a developer,” club spokesman Bob Bray said.

In May, Trademark Property Co. contracted to buy 63 acres of the sprawling compound, which been a west Fort Worth landmark since midway through the last century. That left 16 acres for the association to maintain a fitness center, gym and a couple of ballparks. But not enough room for the trains.

Trademark CEO Terry Montesi said his company plans 200,000 square feet of retail with restaurants along the Trinity River, another 200,000 square feet of offices, 20 to 30 acres of town homes and multifamily residences and a hotel.

He predicted that construction will begin in spring 2014 and the first phase will open a year later.

Bray, 73, and his 28 train-loving buddies don’t have that long. They’re hosting a open house Saturday to say goodbye.

“The open house is for people to get one last look at the layout before we start tearing it apart,” Bray said.

Attention to detail

And this is anything but a typical HO-scale train layout. The 30-plus scale miles of tracks used by the St. Charles & Western and other imagined railroad companies under the Gulf & Denver Railroad Authority run through miniature towns, rustic outposts and remote depots populated by tiny plastic people. The modelers went to great lengths to boost the realism.

Not only are trees lovingly reproduced, but the ground they stand in looks like the real deal. The topography lifts to mountain heights and dips into dramatic gorges.

Indeed, Bray said that member Cecil Lasiter, 58, invested 60 handworking hours on each of the towers that hold a trestle that bridges one stupendous gap.

Turn off the overhead fluorescent lights and the railway reveals dozens of streetlights. Most of the buildings are lit from within. Even billboards have tiny floodlights.

Anyone who can overcome feeling voyeuristic can look into brightly lit hotel rooms. In buildings like the pair of massive factories at Davenport Machine flashes make it seem like people are welding inside.

Guests will be impressed by more than train whistles, too.

In stock pens at rural stations and the Carnivore Packers plant, the cattle are lowing.

That’s the kind of detail-oriented work that its creators hope will draw new members of like minds.

‘We don’t want to move again’

This is not only the layout’s last hurrah, but it’s also the last time anyone will hear the name Lockheed Martin associated with the club. Wherever it settles, the group will be the Cowtown Model Rail Road Club, with membership open to anyone.

“We’d like to partner with someone who has a warehouse we can rent reasonably, where we can afford the utilities and insurance and be in it for a while,” Bray said. “We don’t want to move again.”

The group also doesn’t know how much it will cost to put the layout into storage, but the members have no other choice.

“We just don’t want to see all the work we’ve put into this go for nothing,” Bray said. “We also don’t want to beg.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.