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Model trains more than a hobby
- Updated: February 22, 2014
You may have passed the sign many times in your travels down Ridge Road in North Rose and noticed the sign reading “Gardner Train Doctor”. You may have smiled and wondered at the unobstrusive sign and long driveway.
What lies beyond is a Wayne County treasure. Did you know that Wayne County is home to one of four manufacturers of model train track in the U.S.
GarGraves Trackage Corporation, and the Gardner Train Doctor, located at 8967 Ridge Road, North Rose is a family-run business, which had its roots in Rochester in the 1940s.
A Rochester man named Eldyn S. Graves, who called his business Gardner Train Doctor, joined with his neighbor Earle A. Gardner who made O gauge three-rail model train track. Together, the neighbors eventually formed a company called GarGraves, (a combination of their names) to manufacture and market a new flexible model train track.
Don and Marcia Roder and their family now operated both businesses. Don, who was one of the first employees of Gardner’s Train Doctor in the 1940s, purchased GarGraves in 1963 and moved the business to North Rose in 1974.
The building in North Rose, that now houses both businesses, in a mid 30s storage building, with a retail store and Gardner’s Train Doctor in the front, and a 3,000 square foot manufacturing area in the rear for making tracks.
GarGraves tracks are made by 6 people, including one of the Roder’s daughters. Don’s sons Mike and Tom do the repairs and retail sales work. The Roders, originally from Greece, NY, had 7 children, all of whom have worked at the store at one time in their lives.
“We pride ourselves on our real wood ties for the tracks,” said Mike Roder. GarGraves track was first available only in the “O” gouge three rail, used on the Lionel trains. Then the two-rail and outside third rail were added to the line. In the early 50s, the “phantom” black center rail was introduced. “S” Gauge track (for American Flyer) and Standard track were added later. Switches were developed by GarGraves in the 50s as well as track made of stainless steel for those who needed a rust-resistant track.
Pre-war, all trains were made of metals, but in the 40s and 50s they slowly changed over to plastics. Most people prefer the wood tracks which are much more rigid. The solid rail plastic tracks are quieter, though.
“Our tracks are well made and not usually used by the “plug and play” modelers/hobbyists,” said Mike, who officially joined the business full time in 1990. Tom followed in 1997.
GarGraves survived the 60s when model railroading, especially in the larger gauges, was in the doldrums. Things improved in the 70s and many special gauges were made-to-order, along with multi-gauge track. In the 80s, GarGraves added upcouplers and uncoupler/unloaders to the line.
GarGraves now makes flexible track in O, S, Standard and #1 (G) gauge. Section track (introduced in 1995) is available in O and Standard gauge with plastic ties. Sectional track with wood ties is available in O and S gauge. Then there are all types of switches and curves.
GarGraves Products and Gardner Train Doctor are located at 8967 Ridge Road, just east of Route 14, on Ridge Road in North Rose.
You can email any questions to GarGraves@GarGraves.com or visit their website at GarGraves.com.