Don’t call them “toy trains”, model railroaders take their hobby to heart
It is tucked away in anything but a conspicuous location. The North Rose Railroad Co., created by Gary Poole, is after all, located at 10336 Railroad Avenue, just off Route 89 in the hamlet of North Rose. Visitors are welcomed by a large, lit railroad crossing sign, a harbinger of what lies inside the massive barn/former warehouse.
The building was once the home of a welding shop where Gary was part owner. After the business closed, Gary became the property owner and live-in resident. His love of the rails was rejuvenated from youth seven years ago, but friends will tell you his model train journey began in earnest just four years ago.
Today, the massive model train display fills a better than 20’x 40’ section of the building, with plans to expand to an anticipated 14,000 square feet of faux mountains, tunnels, expansive overpasses, villages, waterways and, oh yes, model trains — over a thousand feet of track, 1000 assorted railcars and close to one hundred varied engines.
At any one time, several of the 21 individual trains may be in motion, with 27 the goal when Gary is finished.
“Finished” may not be the correct terminology. “Something is always in repair, constantly building,” said Poole with a wide grin. “I knew when I started, the original area was not big enough,” he added.
In railroad lingo, the choice of size (scale) means everything. Gary decided to go with the “O” gauge, a popular Lionel-based, realistic, detailed train. Railroad recreation could have been simple, but the North Rose resident also made the decision to personalize his dream. Many of the varied, specially ordered cars are emblazoned with Gary’s own North Rose Railroad Co. name.
Using nothing but American-made GarGraves track (see story in last week’s Times) Gary readily admits his “hobby” is more of an addiction. One line may travel by a hobo’s encampment, another past a trailer park, an occasional outhouse, fishing hole, or a slew of fast food joints, some with drive-thru service (with sounds of customer orders and receiving food purchases.) Yes, there is a working McDonald’s scale restaurant.
Another section of rails takes the visitor around a working amusement park with not one, but two operational roller coasters. Around the turn is the ski mountain with a gondola and ice skating rink — Gary’s montage to an Olympic village.
Further down the trails is a full Christmas village in one corner and a Halloween-themed area that Gary has rigged for visitor surprises including 60 strobe lights.
Dotted throughout the formed mountains is over a $1,000 worth of faux trees, bushes and landscaping that is always a work-in-progress. Of course, the miniature human presence is always felt, including rock climbers, fishermen and assorted laborers, families and village folk.
Gary admits that, since retirement, he sleeps, dreams and daydreams additions to his small world. He is what some describe as willingly suffering from “trainitus”. In his “off time” Gary remains the Town of Rose Justice, a position he has held for 20 years. He is known by police agencies throughout the County as the tough judge, the one police use at all hours of the day for arraignments.
Although Gary never mentioned the costs involved in such an “addictive hobby”, he willingly pointed out two similar engines, each costing in excess of $1,600. The two roller coasters came in at about $1,200.
Crossing between the mountain passes is a massive wooden trestle and entryway into another section, hand- built with 104 hours of love labor. Speckled in the mountainous area are pipe layers, oil/gas rigs, wind farms, radio/tv/cell phone towers and, of course, the occasional welder.
So, besides the obvious “trainitus”, why does Gary Poole devote himself to the world of model trains and all the landscape that follows? “I want to give back. People call up during the holidays asking for a tour. The smiling faces, the thrilled looks from kids, the older people recalling the times they too used to own model trains.”
Gary’s world is available for tours. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by calling him at (315) 573-8054.