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Train garden in Arbutus car repair shop opens for 15th year

Their tools are sharp blades and screwdrivers, in addition to paint brushes.

But the work of Charlie Richter and Mike Kraft that went officially go on display Nov. 25 in the Leeds Avenue showroom of Arbutus Auto Painting and Bodyworks could be considered art.

"We don't put anything down on paper," Kraft said. "We just go with the flow. It's all in the feelings we have."

The design, which all starts in Richter's head, follows the flow of more than 200 feet of model railroad track in the train garden, opening for its 15th year on Sunday, Nov. 25.

"I started this the first week of September," Richter said Nov. 23. "We were just done last week."

Currently unemployed, Richter said he spent 6 to 7 hours a day on the project, creating the 30 new buildings for this year's display and deciding where the 1,200 or so cars will go in the various scenes.

Kraft, who works at Arbutus Bodyworks, takes care of the trains on his lunch breaks and after work.

At least one of the men will be on hand when the shop is open, 6:30-8:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.

Derailments are not unusual, especially when trains of 30 to 40 cars are involved.

Five trains circle the upper level of Charles City, named in honor of the garden's creator.

Four other train sets, an S gauge American Flyer and three Thomas the Tank engines, circle another village on the garden's lower level.

"The kids like that," said Richter. "It's right on their level."

Unlike last year's version, which was tucked against two walls of the repair shop, this year boasts a layout allowing visitors to walk completely around the 24- by 16-foot display, built on 12 sheets of plywood and protected by plexiglass.

"When a kid comes in, it's unbelievable, to see the expression on their face," Richter said. "The adults, it's the same way, especially if they've never seen it before."

Richter said most people spend at least 30 minutes studying the details. Some take longer if they want to find the answer to trivia questions, such as where to find the monkeys hidden in various scenes.

Those scenes include an amusement park, a construction area, a bustling downtown area and the Arbutus Library and Senior Center complex.

One street bears a striking resemblance to Leeds Avenue, complete with a Baltimore television station's van parked outside a car repair shop where inside a cameraman films the interview of a man who created the train garden on display on the showroom floor.

There is also a football stadium packed with spectators enjoying a game in which the Ravens lead the visiting Steelers, 17-14, according to the electronic scoreboard.

More than 70 sponsors from Catonsville, Arbutus and the surrounding area pay for the materials for the annual display. Many of their business cards are displayed throughout the train garden.

"Everything here, I buy just for this," Richter said.

Admission is free, but donations of nonperishable food items are requested , and will go to Southwest Emergency Services.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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