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Meet the modeler: Lance Mindheim

By Lance Mindheim | August 18, 2021

Start small, be consistent, and never stop trying to improve your projects

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Locomotive next to two industries

What was your first train set (or locomotive)?

When I was nine or ten my parents built me a 4 x 8 layout using one of the Atlas track plan books as a guide. It wasn’t a gift or a special occasion as I remember, just something they felt would be a cool thing to do. They have no recollection of building it, but I remember it so vividly.

Describe your model railroading philosophy in 6 words.

We build models to be transported.

A model produce store next to tracks
Although it no longer sees rail service, Cuba Tropical Produce tells the viewer they are in Miami’s produce district. It’s one of the author’s favorite structures. Photo by Lance Mindheim

What has been your biggest modeling success?

My old East Rail layout [See Great Model Railroads 2008 –Ed.]. It was more of an experiment to see if I enjoyed working with smaller layouts. It was also a trial balloon to see if I could effectively model the scenery and structures of the Miami, Florida, region. Although it was fairly small I had so much fun with it. As is often the case, I lost interest after it was fully complete and sold it. I sort of wish I’d kept it.

What was your biggest modeling mistake?

My first layout attempt as a teenager. I bit off way too much; tried to build something far too large and complex for my entry level skills, and I had no cohesive plan. Eventually the venture ground to a halt and gathered dust.

Maybe not the biggest, but the most painful: Back in the day we made frequent use of Floquil paint in rattle cans. All of the cans looked the same but had the color printed on the label. After spending many hours detailing a car I reached for what I “thought” was Dullcote to seal it and finish it off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Dullcote, it was flat black!

What’s your least favorite modeling task?

Decoder installations and locomotive lighting.

Two model figures next to two model trains
The Miami Produce Center was a modelgenic, open-air courtyard, which saw rail service until 2007. The fusee in the foreground is fully operational via keyed switch (purchased from Logic Rail Technologies). Photo by Lance Mindheim

What project(s) have you been working on recently?

I have a commercial project in my shop based on a 1950s Philadelphia freelance theme [see www.shelflayouts.com –Ed.].

Personally, I’m building a fairly large scene with a Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) dealer as the centerpiece on my Downtown Spur layout. This layout was featured in the December 2013 issue of Model Railroader, and I also have a modeling blog where I update my progress.

What advice would you give to a new hobbyist?

Locomotive next to two industries
The local runs through the concrete canyon between Proveedora Jiron and Florida Bottling. Although they weren’t heavy shippers, they both saw a car or two in 2006, the year Lance models. Interestingly, he found out later that this same location appeared in a scene of the crime drama, Burn Notice. Photo by Lance Mindheim

Study the work of good modelers; try to learn what sets their work apart. Never stop trying to improve. Spend less time on social media and re-allocate that time to the work bench instead. Try to stay somewhat consistent as far as building things month to month, even if they’re small simple projects.

Watch video of Lance’s HO scale CXS Miami Downtown Spur.

Download a track plan of the CXS Miami Downtown Spur.

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