Davison hides model train enthusiast mecca

One of the Institute’s residence halls holds an impressive model train array in its basement

TUCKED away below unsuspecting students is one of the most renowned model train sets ever constructed. Beneath the set are complex lines of wire that each control either lights, bridges, and speed of the trains.

Faced with a set of concrete stairs leading deep into the basement of a residence hall, what would you expect to find? Piping? Extra storage? Something creepy? That is not what you will find in the basement of Davison Hall. The only clue to the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society’s existence is a railroad crossing sign, seemingly out of place, on the side of the building. Through the door at the bottom of the steps is an entire miniature world. In front of you sits a model of 1950s Troy. Wooden platforms support buildings, factories, trains, people, and countryside accurate to the time period. A quick glance and you might think that it was the real thing sitting in front of you.

Using photographs, insurance maps, and the occasional field trip, the club has managed to create an extremely accurate representation of the city. Actual pictures of the town in the 1950s and photo copies of the insurance maps line the wall opposite the town. William Gill, a club member, said, “using cardboard mockups of the buildings helps scale the rest of the town around it.” Foam is an ideal building material because it is easy to shape and texture, but laser cut wood and even 3D printed trains have been included in the town. The club pays so much attention to detail that even the brick buildings are textured to look like actual brick.

While it seems like all the world goes into making the model look good, tons of work goes into what’s attached to the underside of the town. Wires and circuits allow each engine to be independently controlled as it moves from zone to zone. The goal is to connect all the train information to one place, so once person could watch and control the trains in a centralized place.

The Rensselaer Model Railroad Society meets Wednesday nights from 6 to 9pm and is open to anyone interested regardless of skill level. Projects range from building new models to designing the circuits to photographing the setup.