ADAMS — The highlight of the National Model Railroad Association's convention in Williamstown this weekend will be a private viewing of Richard Elwell's 16-year accomplishment — a model of the Hoosac Valley Railroad line in the basement of his Bienick Avenue home.
Elwell, a repairman for the New England Telephone Co., has spent the 16 years carefully constructing the setup from scratch — as in the case of much of the scenery or from what could barely be called the "kits" for the model railroad cars. The kits consist of a box of small sticks of wood that take about 60 hours to build into about a five-inch boxcar.
To a layman, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Elwell's model is the detail in his duplication of the Hoosac Valley. There's the old train depot in Adams, old Wirthmore Feeds warehouse in North Adams, which Elwell recreated on a small scale by photographing and measuring the original, and of course, the Hoosuck Tunnel.
The track is built on what is known in model railroad jargon as the H.O. scale. That means the cars are built on a scale precisely one-eighth of an inch for every one foot of an actual railroad car. The Hoosac Valley Line spans the period from the 1930s to 1954 and includes models of the old steam engine and diesel locomotives.
Elwell's model railroad was featured in the June issue of Railroad Model Craftsman and was described by the editors as one of the best model railroads they had ever seen.
Elwell operates the Hoosac Valley Line on Wednesday night with several other Berkshire County model train buffs known as the Wednesday Night Club. They run the line as an actual railroad, making stops at the warehouses, transporting goods from town to town and even documenting the activities on Penn Central timecards.
Elwell said he received his first model train for Christmas as a youngster, but operated it so much that when it broke, his father refused to repair it.
His Hoosac Valley Line, which was created out of countless hours and ingenuity, brings back the glorious days of railroad that Elwell and his model railroad buffs feel have faded. "With the model railroad, you can bring back anything you want."