Authenticity lies in details for toy soldier painter ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE


Ten men wearing blue, Civil War short coats and smocks stood at attention by a cannon, atop a mountain in Elkridge that overlooks the Patapsco River Valley and the old B&O; Railroad line.

The men, however, were only 15-millimeters tall.

And standing above, looking at the men with pride, was the 15-year-old Hanover resident who created them for the train exhibit at the B&O; Railroad Station Museum in Ellicott City.

"It probably took me more time researching what the details of the uniforms were than the time it took me to paint it," said David O'Toole, a sophomore at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn. "When I first started, it was harder to paint the smaller things, like the belts on the uniforms.

"But like anything else, it takes practice," he added. "It's not so hard now."

Watching his father paint late-model tanks years ago, David developed an interest in the hobby. He began by imitating his father, but slowly switched to painting miniature figures and re-creating models of historical periods.

He painted about 100 soldiers for the 1861 train model at the B&O; museum. He will paint more soldiers in August when the museum updates the model to the year 1862.

"It's a spectacular model," said museum Director Ed Williams, who hired David to create the models. "I knew very little about the costuming of that time period, so David had to do a lot of research on what kind of clothes each type of soldier wore.

"The clothes a soldier wore means different things, like whether he was an infantry man or an artillery man," Mr. Williams said. "David did a great job."

A history buff, David also plays the fife and participates in the living history exhibit at the museum.

Every Monday and Friday, he can be found sitting in the museum telegraph room, telling visitors how the room was used or playing authentic Civil War martial music on the fife.

David plays with the 28th Massachusetts Fife & Drum Corp and has performed in such places as Williamsburg, Va., and Fort McHenry, where he appeared on the Today Show with Willard Scott.

Regardless of what visitors will find David doing at the museum, everyone will see his creations in the train exhibit where his men made of lead march by the train station or camp at Camp Carroll.

If you look closely, you can even see the beards on some of the soldiers.

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