Rewards of living a model life (with video)

Community of hobbyists say hands-on approach to history enriches them




The modeleers maintain a Facebook page.

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Model builders show off their creations inside the Artillery Barracks at Fort Vancouver.

The modeleers maintain a Facebook page.

In the era of electronic everything and readily available online simulation, a palpable hobby holds on in Clark County.

A group of model enthusiasts — modeleers, as they call themselves — are still making miniature replicas of cars, planes and rocket ships. Miniatures you can touch and hold in your hand. Although they’d prefer you not do that until the judging ends.

On Saturday, three dozen hobbyist model-makers gathered in the Artillery Barracks at the Fort Vancouver National Site for an annual show put on by the IPMS Lt. Alexander Pearson Modeleers.

“You’ll find a lot of history geeks here,” said Terry Werdel, coordinator of the Saturday show. “It’s also something tangible you can work on. It’s not just learning about history, but you can be a part of it, and share it.”

Werdel is two years into building a model aircraft carrier about two feet long. He had the unfinished piece on display Saturday, but not for judging.

“I’ve probably got at least a year left to go,” he said of the piece. “This hobby does take patience … but you think when you do this. You learn to work inside of your head. And in the end, you have something you can see in passing.”

Werdel points out that a big part of the hobby is to share the work with others. The local group is designed to encourage just that. It’s a way to create community among the hobbyists. They trade kits, ideas and advice while sharing their joy of creating.

Mike LaLone has been a modeleer for about 40 years. He used to be a law enforcement officer, and he said that during training work he would encourage fellow officers to pick up modeling. The reason, he says, is that it’s a pretty healthful hobby.

“First thing is, you stay at home, and you aren’t at the bar,” LaLone said. “Your family would probably like to see you more at home. Second, you can’t drink a whole lot and build model airplanes. And third, well, you might kind of like it.”

LaLone said many folks made models when they were young, and that most of those models turned out crummy.

But as an adult, he says, you might find you can develop the patience to make them look good.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4542;;