Conrad Himmer Jr., 82, built detailed model ships, trains


Conrad Himmer Jr., an accomplished model ship maker and railroad enthusiast, died Thursday of congestive heart failure at Bright-wood Center in Brooklandville. He was 82 and had lived in Cockeysville since 1983.

Known as Connie, Mr. Himmer hand-built models of Chesapeake Bay overnight packet boats that steamed from Baltimore to Norfolk between 1815 and 1962. He faithfully copied them from original blueprints and mechanical drawings.

The intricate and highly detailed vessels that were hand-carved from balsa wood were built on a scale of one-eighth or three-sixteenths of an inch to the foot, and often took from 400 to 800 hours to complete.

So realistic were the models that in one of them, Mr. Himmer included a picture glued to the salon movie screen of the steamer Bay Belle to simulate a film being shown.

Outside of propellers, motors, batteries and lifeboat davits, all other parts and interior components were carefully hand-fashioned.

They also were fitted with electric motors guided by radio transmitters that allowed them to sail across Druid Hill Lake, sans the smoke and melodious steam whistles of the originals. His models are part of the permanent collections of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels and the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.

Equally fascinated with railroading, he constructed a large model layout in the basement of his former Medfield home, where he had lived from 1944 until moving to Cockeysville.

In his basement workshop, surrounded by the operating model railroad, he spent hours building exact copies of locomotives, freight and passenger cars of the Pennsylvania, B&O; and Maryland & Pennsylvania railroads.

A tall, slender man with large hands that at first glance made him seem totally unsuitable as a candidate for fine modeling, Mr. Himmer brought a steady sense of patience and determination to his projects, which were made possible by a pair of common tweezers.

"He used tweezers to install such details in the passenger cars as seats, people and even commodes," said his daughter Edna Davies of Lutherville. "He made them with removable roofs and lighting and meticulously applied decals and hand-painted stripes."

Mrs. Davies laughingly recalled her first date with her future husband.

"He came to the house and then spent the next three hours in the basement with my dad playing with his trains," she said.

Mr. Himmer had a part-time job repairing model trains at the former Lloyd's Hobby Shop on North Charles Street.

He was a longtime member of the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers, where he helped design and build the group's extensive model railroad layouts in its Saratoga Street headquarters.

Born and raised in Baltimore, he attended the Polytechnic Institute in the early 1930s. During World War II, he worked building Liberty ships at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Key Highway shipyard, where he was foreman of a rigging crew.

"He had dreamed of being an architect but quit school and went to work to help keep his older brother in college," said Mrs. Davies.

Mr. Himmer worked as an oil burner mechanic and later supervisor, first for Sherwood Brothers, and later British-Petroleum Oil, which took over the business in the 1950s. He retired in 1976.

He was a longtime member of Central Presbyterian Church in Towson, where services were held Monday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Margaret Newnam; another daughter, Henrietta Zahrobsky of Murrysville, Pa.; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 3/10/99

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