Model trains become lifetime hobby: Lake George man has 135 model trains and counting

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Neil Naviasky started collecting model trains with his father at age 14. They had a Lionel model train and track set up in their Baltimore basement. Then one day when Naviasky came home from college, the trains were gone.

“They were moving into a smaller place and just got rid of them,” he said. “My model train days were over just like that. Then when my son was 2-years-old, about 40 years ago, I started collecting trains again.”

Since then, his train collection has grown to the point that his “very tolerant wife” allowed him to design their new house around it. He has 135 full trains, partial trains and trollies on 10 sections of tracks in his unfinished basement. The trains are mostly HO-gauge, 1:87 scale. In a few places when he wants to give the illusion of distance, he uses N-gauge trains, which depending on the manufacturer or country, ranges from 1:148 to 1:160 scale.

“Some model train people are into operating the trains,” Naviasky said. “I like them to run but I'm more into the clutter group. I like to see how much stuff I can jam in per square foot. Each section is based on real places and the models I use are based on real buildings.”

One of his sections is based on his hometown of Baltimore and depicts a typical Atlantic states city. It starts with a seaport and industrial center, row houses, inner city and, finally, the suburbs. Train lines in this section include the Baltimore & Ohio, Amtrak, Chessie System, Pennsylvania Rail Road, Western Maryland, New York Central, Metro-Link, Philadelphia Transit Company and Brooklyn & Queens.

Other sections include the Wharf, a heavy industry area and switching yard, vertical and horizontal mines, small Colorado towns, large European and North American cities and whatever else he deems appropriate. Trains run the gamut from the steam and coal eras to diesel to electric. Models have switches, working lights, industrial cranes, round houses and a lot of movement overhead, as well.

With all these sections involved there is also room for what he calls a 14-year-old's humor. There's Godzilla, sharks and some unsuspecting water skiers in the ocean, King Kong hangs from a skyscraper in New York City holding a miniature Fay Wray while fighting off biplanes buzzing overhead, a shootout between cops and robbers in Baltimore (it's a rough town, he said), the moose from the TV show “Northern Exposure” and the Florissant Jammers play in the Everett Theater on Thursday nights in Greeley.

As with almost all model train sets, Naviasky's sections will never be completed.

“There's always something else to do,” he said.