NEWPORT BEACH — When hobbyist Russell Cross volunteered to craft a wooden train for his granddaughter's grad night party, he didn't realize the scope of his offer.
The 27-foot-long, red and black locomotive became the largest project he's ever made or designed. During the last two months, the 66-year-old retired Long Beach police officer clocked in some 300 man-hours over the last couple months building the replica train.
Improvisation plays a large role in his work.
"There's no plans," Cross said. "There's no pattern. I just kind of build as I go."
On Thursday, Cross's creation will serve as a walk-through entrance to Newport Harbor High School's circus-themed graduation night, "Under the Big Top."
"I want to thank my grandfather for building something that's going to be so memorable for all my classmates," said Victoria "Tori" Schmidt, the builder's 18-year-old granddaughter.
Cross, a Rossmoor resident, started making the train's engine and adjoining animal cage car piece by piece in his garage. Later on, the project's size forced him to take parts out onto his driveway.