March 11, 2008 | At the press of a button, children visiting the All for Kids Pediatric Clinic in Texarkana make the two trains come alive.
As the trains circle the 7-foot by 4-foot scene on separate tracks, they pass a dump truck and forklift, overtake an ambulance and a helicopter, and even race by a pond with a one-eyed jetski rider.
The fascinating train layout made of Legos that greets the children in the entrance of the health clinic operated by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Southwest Area Health Education Center (AHEC-SW) was once occupied by large potted plants.
That all changed once five couples with the Southwest Arkansas Model Railroad Club got involved.
The All for Kids Pediatric Clinic, which primarily served Medicaid clients, had been operated by an area hospital. In 2004 it was in danger of closing, so two hospitals approached the UAMS AHEC about taking it over.
Soon after, the clinic was renovated around a transportation theme with money from the McDonald Foundation.
Pat Evans, director of respiratory care and acting director of the AHEC at the time, remembered visiting a model train show with elaborate scenes, called layouts. Evans called the Texarkana Model Train Club’s president, Donna Jo Colquitt, whose husband, Charles Colquitt, is on the AHEC’s advisory committee.
The Colquitts discussed it with several other members, who enthusiastically responded. One suggested making the layout of Legos. Evans wrote a grant to purchase the track and trains and one large building as a train station.
But the model train club was used to constructing more elaborate displays, and this was no different.
“As the club got into it,” Charles Colquitt said, “we said ‘we have to have more stuff on this.’”
So they went shopping for Lego kits and set up in Kenneth and Beth Lindsay’s garage. They added a construction scene with cranes, trucks and forklifts. They put together a building to represent the All for Kids Clinic and added an evacuation helicopter to transport patients and an ambulance with paramedics carrying a patient on a stretcher.
“It started falling together. People started buying things and adding things,” Colquitt said.
Beth Lindsay, an elementary school teacher, collected leftover Lego pieces she had bought for her class. The couples would sit around and build from their imagination. In addition to the Colquitts of Lewisville and Lindsays of Texarkana, the couples were Keith and Betty Gibson of Bodcaw, George and Margaret Ivey of Prescott, and Vance and Betty Judd of Lewisville.
“It was something that was fun and we loved doing it,” Charles Colquitt said.
Bill McIntyre, Pharm. D., the current AHEC director, said the kids love the trains, which are housed behind a plastic shield with a button they can push to make the trains run. The clinic sees 70 to 100 children a day and provides a site for UAMS family medicine residents to practice.
The day the layout was unveiled, the club members gathered around the children.
“They had a ball. We sat back and watched them,” Colquitt said, adding that the club is not finished. They are adding a steam locomotive and cars decorated as a Christmas train.