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Get on board for model trains

MIKE CAMUNAS Special Correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:45 PM

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The story is in the details.

The Sundance Central Railroad started off so small, crude even. But over time, as a work in progress, it grew, enough to warrant a place to call home.

The Suncoast Center for Fine Scale Modeling, 2645 Success Drive, just off SR 54 in Odessa, houses four scale model railroads, plus model art and other various exhibits for fellow modelers. The center welcomes patrons every third Saturday of the month since the grand opening in February.

"We wanted to share our work — that's why we have this center here," one of the center's six founders, Dale MacKeown, said. "This is our home now, and it's dedicated to little details of fine scale modeling."

Over the past eight years, MacKeown and Frank Palmer have overseen the creation of Sundance Central. Others have joined, including Jim Hopes, Keith Wolfe and Richard Schmitt, but it wasn't until Dave Revelia came on board that the group of six scale modelers was able to secure a place to house its main attraction: a 40-by-40, 5,000-square-foot-railroad model that is the centerpiece to 100-plus models.

"We want it to be a destination for people in the area who want to come by and see it," Revelia said. "If you're at Disney World and want to come over and see us, then you could do that."

"Obviously we're not too local to Disney World," Palmer added with a laugh. "But we want to be a place people think about, and plan on, visiting — to be a destination."

In addition to Sundance Central, there are three other railroads: Muskrat Ramble Railroad, Dolly Varden Railroad and The Silverton Central Railroad. Since the beginning, however, funding for these projects has come straight from these six guys' pockets, but many of the newer models have been sent from various places around the country and world.

As long as it looks realistic, the Suncoast Center will feature it.

"We try to make this, not whimsical, but plausible," Revelia said. "Everything featured on the Sundance is from the turn of the century, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. We're about it being as realistic as possible."

"Every 2-by-4 that's there, holding it up — it's constructed as if it's a real building," Palmer added. "It's all done to scale; all the lumber is to scale. It's done as if it's an actual building put up board by board."

It has been quite a journey for the Suncoast Center. Once Revelia was on board, he had the building, which once was a woodshop and took two years to be remodeled and refurbished. Then, once the doors opened, the modelers were taken aback by the early visitors.

"We were generally shocked at the people coming in," MacKeown said. "Not just first timers, but all four of the open houses we've had so far, it's been all types. I got more compliments from elderly ladies that were just blown away with the quality (of detail) and the things it reminded them of.

"These step stools we have here, those are for the young kids — we're getting a lot of young kids that need these to see the whole model. I would guess from 45 to 75 age group, but lots of retirees, but also a lot of (other modelers) come to take ideas away — we want to be family-oriented, really."

And at Suncoast Center, it's about the small details, for as Revelia says, fine scale modeling comes down to shadows, highlights, color and texture. The rest is up to the individual.

"All of that is in every little thing you see in here," Revelia said. "From the grass on the ground to the trees to the buildings to the figures — everything is those four things. And we can teach you how to do all of it, but we can't teach you patience. It takes time and patience to do all of this."

Admission to the center starts at $7. For information, go to

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