published Sunday, January 12th, 2014

ModelCon 2014 draws regional model enthusiasts to Chattanooga Convention Center

Ken Niles judges a scale model airplane during the fourth annual Chattanooga ModelCon on Saturday at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The annual convention, held by the Chattanooga Scale Modele'rs Association, showcased museum-quality scale models divided into various categories.
Ken Niles judges a scale model airplane during the fourth annual Chattanooga ModelCon on Saturday at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The annual convention, held by the Chattanooga Scale Modele'rs Association, showcased museum-quality scale models divided into various categories.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
  • photo
    A full-scale replica of Yoda holds a sign reading "Touch models you shall not!" at the entrance to ModelCon.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
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Anyone belonging to just about any interest group might have found an intriguing model at the Chattanooga Convention Center this weekend, from historically accurate war gear to fantastic science fiction creatures.

The fourth annual Chattanooga Scale Modelers Association show — ModelCon 2014 — featured more than 400 models from about 100 entrants from the region, and drew about 400 spectators. The show also doubled as this year’s convention for the International Plastic Modeler’s Society Region III, which covers Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

The models on display for spectators and judges ran the gamut. Notable pieces included a model of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb, detailed dioramas depicting scenes such as a Mars base, and the boat “Jenny” from Forrest Gump.

“I like the concept of taking a large prototype of a real item and shrinking it down to miniature,” said Lynn Petty, the president of the CSMA. “If you think of a Sherman tank from World War II, modelers like to reproduce that Sherman tank in scale, but give it the authenticity, the finish, the realistic appearance as if that real item had been shrunk down to scale.”

Many model hobbyists insist on historical and mechanical accuracy and appreciate the craftsmanship and skill that goes into finishing and painting the models, Petty said.

Models at the weekend competition were judged on criteria such as general construction, finish and decals, historical accuracy and special features, Petty said. The models are judged in nine classes — such as cars, aircraft, and sci-fi — and an overall “Best in Show” award.

“I like the finishes,” said Tom Gaston, a model hobbyist and competition judge who got into models as a kid in the 1960s. “The construction is the pain to get there and do the final finishes.”

Gaston, who is employed as a model-builder for Chattanooga-based equipment manufacturer Astec, combined his two favorite types of models to win last year’s Armor Models Preservation Society national competition in Atlanta. He built a “post-apocalyptic” armored vehicle from scratch using an incomplete Curtiss P-40 Warhawk model kit and spare parts.

The competition’s theme was “Famous Civil War Generals,” so Gaston named his creation the M440 Wheeler after Chattanooga-area Confederate cavalry Gen. Joseph Wheeler.

Russ Lowe, a model railroad enthusiast who runs Free Time Hobbies of Blue Ridge, Ga., with his son Brandon, said people are drawn to modeling for different reasons. The catalyst can be a person’s own history, or that of a relative.

“From time to time we’ll sell a model to somebody and they’ll say, ‘I actually flew this in Korea,’ or something like that,” Lowe said

“So to a lot of people it’s an interest in history, whether it’s their personal history or history in general, that might have gotten the interest started, and it’s gone from there.”

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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