McCann: Heritage Days honors Clark Countian

Published 9:51 am Thursday, August 1, 2019

I grew up with a limited view of the arts — theater, dance, art, music and writing, each in their various forms.

But I am coming to realize the arts are much broader — from painting a sermon to building an N-scale model railroad layout.

Heritage Days in Midway honored Clark Countian Laurine Grant and her late husband, Bill, for their construction and donation to Midway of an N-scale model railroad of that town.

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Laurine Grant, 83, moved to Winchester in August 2018. Before that, she lived in Vermont for 15 years. And before that, from about 1997 to 2000, she resided in Midway.

Laurine was married for more than 50 years to William (Bill) Grant.

Bill Grant was a heavy equipment operator in Connecticut for more than three decades, a union member who provided well for his family — particularly during March to November of each year. But during the long northeast winters, when he was laid off, he was a model railroader.

Bill and Laurine Grant raised four daughters — Shannon, Lisa, Jeanine and Anne — who after high school mostly scattered to the four winds: Connecticut (Shannon); Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado (Anne); Kentucky (Lisa); Arizona and Kentucky (Jeanine).

Over time, grandchildren came, Bill retired, and the couple followed not the swallows to Capistrano but visited or lived near their daughters and grandchildren.

During the 1980s, while Bill still worked, Lisa and her family lived in Midway and Bill and Laurine came south for visits. And almost immediately, the model railroader was hooked: Midway, the city through which a railroad runs.

Suddenly he had a vision: of an N-scale model of Midway for his trains.

After retiring from his construction job, Bill and Laurine moved to North Carolina to be near Anne, her husband and children.

Still, Bill was a model railroader. And in 1997, they moved to Midway to be near Lisa and her family.

Jeanine and her family lived in Lexington, but the pull of Midway’s trains and ongoing work on the train layout was in their minds when choosing where to live.

By 2000, the layout was complete. So before Bill and Laurine hit the road in an RV camper full time, they donated their N-scale model of Midway to the town.

In the years between then and 2019, the layout remained in storage. However, this year, the Midway Community Model Railroad Project 2019’s plan to restore and expand the design generated a lot of support.

Finally, on Saturday at high noon, Mayor Grayson Vandergrift had a dedication ceremony where he began by saying Midway “embraces its history” as a railroad town.

Then he thanked Grant for her and her husband’s hard work and donation of the layout to Midway. He also thanked the many people and businesses that helped restore and expand the model.

That’s the story of what happened. And as a story, it’s an interesting one.

But by now, you must surely have the same question I had when going to the dedication of the layout — why is this art?

You buy some plywood, paint it green, add some tracks, buy plastic buildings and trees and tape or tack them down, and you have a model train set. Not so.

Indeed, great artistry and a significant amount of time were involved in this effort.

Jeanine Grant Lister, who now lives in Winchester, explained that tiny little spikes hold down the rails.

“You have to use tweezers and a tiny hammer (to put the spikes in,)” she said. “… And the buildings were made and painted by my parents, though I did make trees and helped paint the silo.”

The silo, she said, was made of a “part of a toilet paper roll.”

Pictures of the layout which accompany the column may give you some sense of the artistry involved in painting objects that are, according to Wikipedia, between 1:148 and 1:160.

So a 6-foot man would be roughly 1/3 of an inch tall.

A train car in this scale is only a bit more than an inch tall and a few inches long. The buildings require a delicate touch and great care.

Building and painting such people, buildings and scenery is truly an artistic undertaking.

Vandergrift finished speaking by saying the Midway railroad layout would have a permanent place of honor in the town “soon.”

Then he asked Grant to speak.

“Thank you,” to great applause, was all she said.

Bill McCann is a playwright, poet, flash fiction writer, and teacher who writes about arts events and personalities. Reach him at