Charles Owens lent three model school buses he constructed to the Chilton County Board of Education to display at the Central Office.

Archived Story

Former schools employee makes, shares model buses

Published 5:49pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Charles Owens of Jemison spent 17 years maintaining school buses at the Chilton County Schools Transportation Department and plans to continue working on buses—just of a smaller size.

Owens retired Jan. 1 as parts manager at the department’s Bus Shop and has since dedicated more time to his hobby of carving and constructing model school buses from different types of wood.

To commemorate his retirement, Owens lent three of his model buses to the Board of Education at a meeting Jan. 15 to display indefinitely at the Central Office.

He built his first model bus, “Bluebird No. 1,” in 1996 out of cedar and oak.

“I don’t really know what inspired me,” Owens said. “I had been in the shop for about a year when I built it.”

He said he was grateful to the board for allowing him to display “Bluebird No. 1,” “Bluebird Vision” and “Thomas Freightliner,” each of which took about three months to make.

Owens builds the buses in his workshop at home with wood, various types of glue, enamel and food coloring.

The food coloring acts as a stain for the wood, but unlike paint, it does not conceal the grain of the wood.

Owens also built model airplanes displayed at the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office.

He has constructed wooden models since 1978.

“I’ve made 14 models,” Owens said. “I’ve built them for different people over the years.”

Shop foreman Bobby Martin worked with Owens for 15 years and described him as “an exceptional woodworker.”

“He’s a real meticulous kind of guy,” Martin said. “He can do most anything with his hands.”

Martin credited Owens’ military service for some of the skills he demonstrated in his career as well as woodworking.

Owens was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, was in the United States Marines and received a Purple Heart award for being wounded in service.

As parts manager, Owens was responsible for coordinating with mechanics to order parts needed for the department’s 109 buses and four-plus maintenance vehicles.

Tammy Strength is the department’s new parts manager.

Prior to the schools’ transportation department, Owens worked at L.P. Gas Company in Jemison.

Owens and his wife, Carolyn, have a son named Brandon.

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