September 7, 2006
Turner Co. -- Most people remember a special teacher who has made a long lasting, positive difference in their lives. A teacher who spends a lot of time working in a make-believe world helped a friend overcome a life-long concern.
Few people have an endless enthusiasm for their work, but Tom Romig would easily qualify as such a person, as he bounds up two flights of wood stairs and walks through a door into a living room.
In an apartment turned construction site sits a big white model of a construction zone. "I just start building and whatever works out, works out," says Tom, as he uses a knife to smooth what would become a road way. "I decided to do a model of a bridge under construction."
Not just any bridge, "I'm just getting the rough edges off," says Tom. His bridge involves an Interstate highway anywhere in the US, complete with models of construction equipment as if they were at work.
In real life, Tom works in construction, building roads and bridges and runways. "It's in my blood," says Tom and in his hands that build to exacting specifications, like he does in the real world. "It's as close to scale as we can get it," says Tom who believes in building it right, and right to him revolves around laser accuracy, even in a make-believe world.
"Sixteen feet is right there," says Tom as he uses a special ruler to measure the height of a bridge support. He spends a lot of time on details. A concrete bridge support shows the metal reinforcing rods just like the real ones. "Anyone can come in a build a road, but the detail is what sets it off," says Tom who started making models as a teenager.
Plus, he builds the construction equipment that dot the model. Tom enjoys making them as accurately as the construction site. "These are the braces for the boom," says Tom as he constructs a crane, pointing out the machine's supports. A crane built to scale.
Tom doesn't build alone. He often pops a top with Mike Taylor. "I've learned quite a bit from him," says Mike as he opens a container of special paint that he will cover the white Plaster of Paris with.
Up in a living room turned classroom is a student's utopia, where mistakes get brushed away as if they never happened, and where a good laugh between teacher and student happens frequently. "If something doesn't turn out the way you want it to turn out, you just tear out that particular part out and re-do it," says Mike.
Model building changed his life. "I'm not a very detailed person. So, I'm having to struggle and learn how to be by helping to do something like this," says Mike as the puts the light green paint over the bright white of the plaster with a brush.
But, Mike gets encouragement "Master painter," says Tom with laugh, as he gently points out tricks that make the paint cover better. They both beam at what they accomplish because they have a model relationship.
Tom sells their models on E-Bay or to construction companies that want one as a conversation piece for their offices.