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Baltimore's Custom Model Railroads Teams Up With ESPN

December 28, 2015

As ESPN promotes the upcoming College Football Playoff, Baltimore resident Jeff Springer's imprint can be seen all over the network. 

Springer's Hampden-based company, Custom Model Railroads (CMR), specializes in designing and building custom made structures and kits. Springer and CMR recently teamed up with Coyote Productions to create one of ESPN's commercials

The 60-second advertisement, which first aired in mid-December, features TV highlight clips of players from the four squads in this year's field -- Clemson, Michigan State, Alabama and Oklahoma -- on Times Square-like buildings. It will continue airing through the national championship game Jan. 11, 2016 between the winner of the Clemson-Oklahoma Orange Bowl matchup Dec. 31 and Michigan State-Alabama Cotton Bowl showdown Dec. 31. 

"... I was really thrilled with it," Springer said, "because I thought it turned out really well. It's just really cool to see something you made pop up on TV, and it's also not the first time people have used our products for ads."

A lifetime model railroader, Springer, 50, had never been tasked with laying out a structure designed for football since founding his company in 1991. The structure he built for ESPN does not involve railroads. 

For some, that might have presented a challenge, but not for Springer and not his distinguished team.  

The Maryland Institute College of Art graduate said he and his staff of three employees use the same standard foundation for each project they are tasked with. From that point, the rest of the pieces usually fall into place. 

"The initial phase of each project starts with us finding the building we want to model, photographing it, and if we can get plans of it, we get plans of it," Springer said. "… We draw the parts in a [computer-aided design] program, then we laser cut the parts out of cardboard and do a mockup design to see what it is going to look like and make adjustments. … We then build the final model out of acrylic and paint it and do all the detail work on it."

And, as was the case with his football model, Springer said if he makes the model into a kit and sells it, an instruction guide must be written for the purchaser.

"Writing the instructions and directions is almost as much work as the first part of the project," Springer said. "To come up with a set of instructions and all the reference material that the end user needs and packing it all, there's a lot that goes into that as well." 

The process, Springer said, can be complicated and trying at times, taking as long as 200-300 total hours to finish. No matter what, after the completion of each project, Springer said seeing all the hard work that goes into the end result is always one of the most gratifying parts of his job.   

For the football project specifically, Springer, a former graphic designer, was especially pleased with the way the special effects turned out. 

"With this one, I thought it was really well produced as far as the atmosphere and feel of the ad that was added through [computer generated imagery]," Springer said.