Toy trains are a popular hobby with a certain group, but not necessarily to play with. Model trains are much more than collecting engines and boxcars. The hobby involves building railyards and train stations and landscapes and towns, with vehicles and people and animals to liven things up. Some very realistic scale-model layouts for model trains are worldwide tourist attractions. With model trains you can recreate bits of history or reproduce modern train runs. Kids and adults alike enjoy them.
Skip Brewster did not really think about model trains much until his children got a train set from their uncle. They played with it a bit, but he got interested and started tinkering with it. That led to another train set, more track and switches, and a 30-year hobby.
When they moved to Wadena, Skip had a 10- by 20-foot room filled with a layout that he had to dismantle. That did not stop him; he started setting it up again in the basement of their new house, and continued adding to it. The track went over the top of the washer and dryer, under the stairs, through one of the walls, and partly into a second room. He worked on it one wall at a time, adding track and buildings and switches as he went.
Skip bought the trains and buildings as kits but did not necessarily set them up as illustrated on the boxes. He used his imagination to create an impressive layout. The railyard was under the stairs. Tracks wound around and crossed each other. Three engines, controlled independently, could pull a variety of cars around the tracks.
A few months ago the Brewsters decided to move, but this time Skip could not take his hobby with him. With the help of local realtors, they found a buyer willing to take on the hobby as well as the house, so the model trains are still there and still in use.
“I always enjoyed building them more than running them,” Skip admitted. Considering the complexity of layouts created by serious hobbyists, he is not alone in that. “I met a lot of interesting people doing this, though.” He used to subscribe to a model train magazine and go to shows, meeting up with other model train enthusiasts, particularly from the local model railroad clubs.
“I had HO gauge trains, which are on a scale of 3.5 mm to one foot, or 1:87.” That means that all his models and buildings and other things were 1/87th of actual size.
Visitors often commented on his train layout. “They thought it was amazing,” Skip recalled. “I just had a lot of fun doing it.”
He will miss it, he said, but has no plans to start a new layout. “It’s hard for me to do the fine work anymore, and we don’t have an extra room to put it in now.”
His trains live on, however.
By Charlene Wirtz