Model train enthusiasts share their passion

Mike Rowe makes an adjustment to a model train on the turnstile in his shop in Minden.

Mike Rowe makes an adjustment to a model train on the turnstile in his shop in Minden.

Ask Mike Rowe how many feet of track he has in the room he had built for his model train layout.

“Maybe 1,000 feet,” he guessed as trains rolled around multiple tables, through tunnels and over a bridge longer than a man is tall.

Smoke from the O-scale engines begins to gather around the track lighting as the Minden attorney works the roundabout that leads to the big shop.

The layout is still a little bare, because Rowe has only been working on it for seven years.

“In the summer I do the classic cars, and in the winter I do this,” he said.

Right now the tunnels associated with Coal Mountain is the largest landscaped piece, featuring 732 trees, a coal mill and several tunnels.

Rowe is partial to the Pennsylvania Railroad, but he has a V&T engine that announces runs from Reno to Carson City and then to Virginia City.

“I see the conductor is checking his watch, so it must be time to go,” the engineer says as the model trail starts moving.

The O-scale is a quarter-inch to the foot scale, and are larger than HO Scale trains.

Rowe said he started out with O-scale as a kid, and he stuck with it.

“My parents told me I road on the last train from Reno to Carson City, but I was just a year old, so I have no memory of it,” he said.

Today and Sunday more than two dozen model train layouts will be featured on a tour through Northern Nevada, including Rowe’s set-up in Minden.

Rowe said he’s been a stop on the tour a half-dozen times when he had his old layout.

“Little kids are fascinated by it,” he said. “These days it’s not easy to get their interest with video games and other things. It’s fun to watch them try to figure out which tunnel the train’s coming out of.”

With his computer, a control board and several remotes, Rowe said he can run as many trains as he can keep track of, which is about a half-dozen.

When Rowe moved, he said his family was able to pack up faster than he was.

“It took me longer to pack up the old layout then for Suzy and the girls to pack up the house,” he said.

For tour information

In addition Hobbytown USA, 2303 N. Carson St., Carson City and Times Square Trains at 970 7th St., Reno will have free tour guides available.

Those interested can also contact Jim Petro at or 544-5636 or John Currie at or 224-9725.


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