Community Arts Center hosts model railroad discussion, tour

Published 7:51 pm Thursday, July 11, 2019


Contributing writer

This month, the community is invited to ride the rails on Wednesday, July 17. The Community Arts Center’s Lunch with the Arts program is paying a visit to the home of former city commissioner, mayor, and member of the Kentucky state House of Representatives, John Bowling, for a tour of his fantastic model railroad layout.

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This past Christmas, visitors to downtown Danville got a special gift.  Bowling approached several Main Street businesses and asked if he could place some of his highly-detailed model train layouts inside their storefronts. The dioramas depicted rural Kentucky life from 1930 to 1950, when steam engines were being phased out for diesel, and train depots were a big part of life in many small towns.


Bowling says he got the idea at a model train show in Madison, Tennessee, when someone asked him if he had ever displayed his work in public. He took the idea and ran with it.

“The key to modeling is you make it as interesting as possible and as real as possible,” says Bowling, an avid model train layout builder with decades of experience.

Whereas the dioramas he exhibited on Main Street were static, Bowling’s personal layout is all about action. Here, the trains come to life, chugging through a countryside reminiscent of southern Boyle County.

Bowling’s personal layout is no basement corner operation. To house his passion, he constructed a special train building behind his Maple Avenue home. He has drawn on his personal life in crafting the layout.

Bowling speaks with pride as he shares these personal connections found throughout the landscape, encompassing three cities, 120 structures and 1,600 people. The layout engages all aspects of mid-20th-century life. It is a highly realistic representation, all done at 1:87 scale.

For this special Lunch with the Arts presentation, the trains will be working, carrying cargo and passengers. The layout’s three main lines will travel over bridges, wind through knobs and pass more than 4000 trees as they travel from station to station.

Bowling continues to construct dioramas, which are sought by enthusiasts across the country. And while he says this may be his last major layout, he also adds, “You never finish a layout, you always are tweaking on it or adding different scenery, or adding automobiles …


Upcoming Lunch with the Arts include: Blue Groove Jazz, Aug. 21; Sheldon Tapley, visual art, Sept. 18; Tripp Bratton, African rhythm fusion, Oct. 15; Matthew and Kate Maynard, architectural ironwork, Nov. 20; and Young at Heart Band, Dec. 20.

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The special off-site Lunch with the Arts, featuring John Bowlings model trains, will be noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, July 17 at 406 Maple Ave. Seating will not be available, and no food or drink is allowed inside of the building. Attendees are asked to park along Maple Avenue, then follow the signs. For those with limited mobility, assistance will be provided from the driveway entrance to the train building. $5 per person at the door.