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A little bit of history

Sunday, February 10, 2008

(Photo)
Charles Turner of Charleston stand with the model of the Sikeston Depot he made.
SIKESTON -- If anyone knows the smallest details of the Sikeston Depot, it is Charles Turner of Charleston. Turner has recreated the depot, down to the tiniest detail in miniature.

"This is amazing," marveled Mike Marsh, executive director of the Sikeston Depot, as Turner presented the miniature building to the Depot. "Oh my gosh, it has the handicap entrance door, even the handle is in the right place," Marsh said.

The depot is just the latest in a series of miniature buildings created by Turner. All done by hand, the miniatures are almost entirely of wood. In the case of the miniature depot, Turner had to crush gravel to recreate the rock under the train tracks and did use a track from a toy train to serve as the tracks passing in front of the Sikeston landmark.

The rest, he explained, is about $50 worth of plywood, glue and a lot of time.

The semi-retired Turner estimated he spent several hours a day for the past three months working on the project.

Beginning with photographs, Turner first makes a model of the building using cardboard which helps him determine the beginning size.

Although he scoffs at having any artistic ability, his work is all done freehand. "I don't take measurements, I just work to make it so it looks right, it is proportioned right," he said.

After all, he continued, a house is just a box. He said he just starts with a box, then begins adding on. In the case of the Depot, the details he added included the potted plants which sit outside in the summer, benches, light poles and tiny signs.

Much of the crafting is done using a scroll saw and a jigsaw.

"I learn every time I do one, how to do it better, quicker," Turner said. But not without some trial and error, he said, noting usually he must tear apart a work several time before declaring it ready for presentation.

Other works by Turner can be found around Charleston. He has made a miniature of the Mississippi County Courthouse, one of the Catholic Church and also one of the Historical Society Home. His most difficult work, he said, was recreating the Goodin Home in Charleston. The intricacies of the roof line proved to be a challenge, Turner said.

"I like to do landmarks - where people can see it and know what it is," he explained about how he chooses his works.

A nudge from a family friend prompted him to recreate the small version of the Sikeston Depot.

Turner has never charged anyone for the tiny masterpieces he creates. "You can't charge for all those hours you put in," he said. Instead, he tackles each piece for the challenge it brings and the excitement he sees from those admiring his work.

And there is one more thing keeps him at his work bench, Turner said. "It's fun."