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Model Train Hobbiest Grif Bloodhart

08/25/2014 10:07AM ● By Paul Boerger

Model Behavior

September 2014
Story and photos by Paul Boerger

Grif Bloodhart was introduced to H-O scale model railroading at age 16 by an aerospace engineer and has never looked back. When Grif and his wife, Penny, bought their home in Mount Shasta, it offered a rare feature almost unheard of in this day and age: a huge basement and the opportunity to create a dream-come-true model railroad layout.
“I had always built model airplanes and cars,” Grif says. “Model railroading offered the challenge of building a layout—to create a visual scene that looks real.”
Nine years later, the basement has been transformed into an extensive model railroad with a 408-square-foot, 24x17-foot layout, workshop and miniature marshalling yard. The layout is not the one you might remember from Christmas that encircled the tree with a single track. The extensive simulation contains 5,000 pieces including 35 cars, seven engines, 45 buildings and terrain that varies from mountains to farmland to town. Sound is also a part of the simulation, with the steam engines huffing their way around the track, tooting their horns and then easing to a slow puffing when pulled into a station.
Cost for the layout?
“More than my wife would like,” Grif says with a laugh.
Certainly, the engines and the cars form the basis for a layout, but it is in the precision detailing of the scenes that makes such a project a labor of love and the impressive simulation that Grif has created.

“I wanted to create a historically accurate layout from 1935 to 1955,” Grif says. “The theater marquee, the advertisements on the buildings, the vehicles, the figures and the billboards reflect the time periods. There’s Rita Hayworth selling Royal Crown Cola on a billboard and Betty Boop selling Boopsy Cola on a building.”
Grif said a single scene with buildings, both prebuilt and from scratch, can take up to 500 hours to complete, and weathering is a huge part of the process in creating a realistic look.
“I use chalk, india ink and alcohol wash. It has a major impact on how realistic it looks,” Grif says. “I dirty things up to make it look like they are muddy. I have broken up the base of a tree to give it the appearance of the roots coming through the sidewalk.”
And the figures are not just standing around. They are engaged in activities from fixing vehicles to using an outhouse to sweeping a porch. On an upstairs balcony, for example, two tiny figures are playing a game of checkers. The flag flying over the cemetery flutters due to a tiny fan at the base.
Grif has taken on a complex project for the 2015 Sisson Museum railroad exhibition.
“I am recreating the 1914 Mount Shasta railroad station for the Sisson Museum model railroad layout. I have the original blueprints,” Grif says. “It’s very difficult. Nothing is standard and I am hand cutting every piece. There are dozens of pieces.”
Model railroading is not just an esoteric hobby pursued by an elite few. The National Model Railroad Association’s Directory of World Wide Rail Sites lists more than 5,000 links, and it is only a partial listing.
Grif says a layout is never completed and most days will find him at his workbench peering through a huge magnifying glass, creating another part of his fascinating historical creation.

National Model Railroad Association