18WT 013: Hobbies - It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No, It's A Choo Choo Train!
March 22, 2021 Patrick Heller / Janet McCue
The Guest Vitals!
Worked for SUNY Albany for 36 years
Retired in 2000
Been a model railroad enthusiast for the last 20+ years
Currently living in the Kingsway Community in Upstate NY with his wife Margaret of 60 years
Tiny Park Railroad!
- Charlie Park in Upstate New York -
18WT 013: In this
episode, Patrick and Janet begin talking about their giveaway at
18wheeltalk.com/giveaway go there and vote for one of the
five mugs. The mug with the most votes WINS. To vote, we need your first name and email
address. If you are one of the LUCKY TWENTY
WINNERS, you will WIN the mug and a Podcast shirt. All mugs are ambidextrous. They joke
around for a few minutes about coffee, St. Patricks’ Day, mugs, and food, oh
and pugs. Soon after they are joined by
Patrick’s father, Charles Heller. We
hear and see the similarities between father, and son come alive in this
interview as they laugh together and reminisce.
Charles is a
lifelong model train enthusiast, who’s love of model trains began when he was a
teenager. When he began, you could not
purchase track and snap them together.
You had to build them, board by board just like the real thing. No easy feat, considering the track was 5/8”
track HO gauge (trains are 3-4” tall). You
bought the wooden base and nailed the rails to the base. Charles said that it
took several weeks just to make a “simple” oval track back then. He currently
uses G scale outdoors (track is 1 ¾”), Lionel trains are O scale (track is 1 ¼”),
next is S gauge (track is 7/8”), then HO gauge that he began with, then N gauge
(track is 3/8”), which is what Patrick is familiar with. Charles had N gauge when Patrick was growing
up. The last one is called Z gauge which
fit in a briefcase, ¼ “ track (microscopic).
Charles believes there is another one smaller than Z gauge.
about the show Silver Spoons where the Dad road around the house on the
train. Charles says it is probably a 5”,
Patrick wants one for the pugs. No
matter what gauge you are using, it can be very expensive. They go on
to discuss the model train museum in Scottsdale AZ and how much fun they had
touring it with Dad & Mom.
parents bought a Lionel set when he was a child had a double 4x8 sheet and it
was in their basement. The Lionel
layouts are always good size. They then
go on to discuss truck stops having train sets and various friends. Janet had one that went with her Christmas
village. She did none of the work, just
got a hobby shop owner to set it up for her. The talk
continues with talk of growing up next to a train track and the favorite types
of trains. Charles grew up near the NY
Limited that was a stainless steel, fancy passenger car. Janet grew up next to the Rock Island RR, box
cars and nothing pretty there. A few
jokes later about a nose that wasn't broken and Patrick sticks to his story.
his first oval was after school build for a few weeks. Janet asks about he outdoor train behind
their house when she first met them. It
was a G scale, that took about six months.
Outdoor tracks take longer because you must dig the terrain and make it
look the way you want. Such as the
bridge over the pond that Charles built that Patrick remembers so well. Charles
started that one with plastic track and even with that you can leave it out all
winter long. It helps when you leave it
all put together and never move it.
Plastic trains run on batteries, not electric. When he changed the track to aluminum it
wasn’t as fun as he thought. It took too
much time to care for because they are electric.
He runs his
trains at the residence he lives in, which has all stages for people
from independent living to nursing home care on one property. They used to have a nursery school on
property also and Charles said he really misses the kids. The kids kept the place lively, fun and joyful. The residents in his community
still come and enjoy watching the train run.
Charles has a walk path next to it as well as places to sit and enjoy. They go on
to discuss how Charles built his Tiny Park Railroad and the tools he made use
of that you wouldn’t normally think of using for a train set. The reason is, you either build and get
creative or put a lot of money into these setups. Patrick had a wholesale business and Charles
began buying birdhouses back then. He
continues using birdhouses as part of the village.
continue with how expensive hobbies can be, no matter what gauge you go
with. Charles says that if he had the
space, he would rather have an indoor G scale set. That being said, outdoor is more fun because
of working with the landscape and nature. Charles has
run six trains on his current layout and has had a wreck or two or three. He pulled twenty-two box cars with tandem
engines. He said he can double up and run engine, coal car, engine, coal
car. Like they do in real life, that is
what it took to pull the twenty-two cars.
circles back about the thought of a 2% grade.
In all the trains she has been around and at the train museum she never
noticed the grade. You noticed the grade
in a semi, she never thought about it for a train. Patrick asks
about bridges that Charles has made from popsicle sticks and the answer was
none. He made a trestle out of bents
that is kind of like cheating. Janet
then asks about grading curves. She
thought you would have to, based on automotive knowledge and of course movies. Charles says only a long passenger train
would need that, so far so good. She then
asks about outside build and use of real or artificial greenery. Charles uses real greenery, mostly
flowers. Even if they are large, they
still look nice. Janet thought maybe
moss roses would work nice up there in upstate NY.
this has been a lifelong journey with his enthusiasm for both indoor and
outdoor tracks. He has entertained
family, friends, and neighbors alike with his elaborate builds. He recommends that if you have the time and
are looking for something to do, this is a great hobby. You can start small with a kit and build from
there, as far as your imagination, budget, and space will take you. He suggests beginning with battery operated. They discuss different places to buy them,
prices, styles, and ways to begin.
We now find
out how the park got its’ name “Tiny Park Railroad”. It was built in a tiny park at Kingsway (where
he lives with Mom Heller, who tolerates his hobby). That is how he named it, sometimes the
easiest choices are the best. When we asked him for some final words It was go do it and have fun.
He did say that Mom puts up with his hobby, does not help with it, has
her own hobbies. She is into books and
computers, not trains and dirt. It is
good to have separate interests, it keeps life interesting. Janet then jokes about selling Patricks’
hobby, Bobbleheads & baseball stuff. They wrap it
up with a lot of laughter and discussion of what they learned and future
visits. If you have any questions about this hobby for Charles you can email Patrick at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put episode 13 in the subject line. Patrick will pass your questions along.