Casey Overpass to survive in model train set

FOREST HILLS—Model train enthusiast, Casey Arborway design team member and Jamaica Plain resident Nathaniel Cabral-Curtis is honoring the soon-to-be demolished Casey Overpass with a miniature version of the overpass in his model train set.

“The idea isn’t to create an exact replica of Forest Hills down in the basement, but to do sort of a loving pastiche of it,” he told the Gazette. “Forest Hills has changed a lot in the 30 years I’ve known it…but the trains have been a constant since the 19th century. So a Forest Hills send-up with trains in it just seems to make sense.”

During a recent Gazette visit, Cabral-Curtis demonstrated how two current train loops—one featuring a steam engine model that produces smoke, another a replica of an Amtrak locomotive that currently runs through Forest Hills—snake under tunnels and through replica stations.

The model Casey Overpass tribute is a ramp, not a bridge. It sits in pride of place, at the center of the large 1/48-scale model surface, with a truck already in position atop the miniature. It is mostly made of scrap wood and balsa wood, along with some model train-specific miniatures such as working streetlights. He said he will probably add tiny model pigeons, too.

“Mostly it was basic carpentry stuff: measuring, cutting, sanding and painting,” said Cabral-Curtis, public involvement specialist on the Casey project team. “Since I work a full-time job…it took me [four months] to get everything assembled and installed…There are, of course, railroad modelers with more time, money and expertise than I who build working drawbridges from scratch, but for scrap wood and spray paint, I think this effort has turned out well.”

Cabral-Curtis has been a model railroad enthusiast since he was a child living in the Forest Hills area. He said he also eventually plans to add an elevated trolley line that will run concurrently with the “at-grade” train lines. The MBTA’s Orange Line used to run on an elevated track along Washington Street before it was sunk underground by 1987.

“I have an MBTA trolley to run on it,” a customized item, he said. “I got to take the last ride on the Orange Line when I was 6, so that’s something I’d like to recreate here.”

Cabral-Curtis said he hopes to get a good year’s worth of work on his train set so that by December, he can host an “open basement” for fellow residents of Woodlawn Street in Forest Hills.

“Model trains and Christmas go together,” he said.

As the Casey’s public involvement specialist, Cabral-Curtis is responsible for taking down the minutes at all Casey Arborway project meetings.

The Casey Arborway, an at-grade surface street network, will replace the crumbling Casey Overpass. The Casey Overpass is the State Route 203 bridge over Washington Street at the Forest Hills T Station.

Nathaniel Cabral-Curtis shows off his model train set with a Casey Overpass tribute. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

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