Imagine holding your house in the palm of your hand. You are either a giant among men, or somebody like Rich Cobb has done his job.
Rich, who retired as the Operations Officer for the Wayne County Emergency Management Department in 2007 has been building miniatures in one form, or another since the late 1940s.
So, what does it take to be a builder of the very small? “First, you need a good pair of magnifying glasses,”admitted the former manager of the Agway fertilizer plant in Lyons. A “to-scale” ruler is the next tool of the trade, along with an exacto® knife, razors, tweezers, paints, brushes and assorted precision tools for varied tasks. The most important human contributions are perhaps patience and a steady hand.
The process usually starts with somebody’s dream of creating a building, or scene for a train, or diorama layout. The plan begins with measurements and perhaps pictures, or drawings, whether historic, or recent.
Then, math and the scale ruler are put into play. Most of Rich’s work centers on HO train reproductions, reducing proportions to 1/87 of its original size. Companies exist that supply size- appropriate building materials, everything from lumber, roofing, lighting and plumbing. Sometimes, when the odd detail does not exist, the builder requires the skills to improvise. Taking everyday items and working them into a design is part of the trade.
Rich steps out the back door of his Village of Clyde home, and in a few short steps enters the small workshop where the magic begins. Keeping an orderly workshop is a must, the floor scatterings are something else. He even built a small side-vented spray paint box into the workshop.
Cobb readily admits he does not tackle the next project with the thought of making a huge profit. “I suppose when I figure it all up, I make about a dollar per hour,” he said with a smile. He may put in a 4-5 hour shift on a project, then walk away, always telling the customer that a time deadline is nonexistent. “It will get done when it gets done” is his motto.
Currently, Rich is building a total farm setting with house and out buildings. The customer from the Boston Spa area took hundreds of pictures and supplied actual dimensions of the layout. Sometimes the customer is less specific in their dreams. When the layout is finished, farm implements including tractors and even a manure spreader will be seen.
One of the toughest projects Rich tackled was a replica of the Sodus Point coal trestle. He meticulously recreated the historic structure that, in its finished state, measured eight feet long and is currently on display at the Sodus Point Lighthouse Museum.
So, is Rich Cobb a model train enthusiast? “No, I enjoy making the buildings. I have a train running around a circle. That is about the extent of it,” he confesses.
Some of Rich’s work comes in the assembly of pre-designed miniature kits, then adding the final touches. One such customer sent a kit all the way from Australia, that required some specialized packing and shipping of the final piece of art.
Cobb said the work is considered a break from spending all his retirement watching television and sitting with his wife.
It is also the vision of a completed project where the customer is left in awe.