Running little rails in Dayton

DAYTON – Visitors to Richard Gustafson’s backyard 1/24th scale railroad might want to observe a moment of silence when they go by its cemetery.

There’s a service in progress, although exactly how formal is a matter for debate.

“They just opened the tailgate and dumped him out,” he joked.

It’s also possible it’s part of a vast conspiracy; there is a crashed UFO a few feet away and those mourners.

The funeral service and the crashed flying saucer are just a few of the scenes the tracks run through and around. There are loggers, a plane crash, a prospector and his mine, and a celebrity.

“That’s Elvira,” Gustafson said. “Next to her T-bird.”

For the residents of the tiny town, they can buy a used car at the dealership that opened last year and if they’re inclined to stay, rent a trailer at the Big Rock Trailer Park.

The miniature road crew that’s repairing a pothole mimics the work Gustafson has to do to keep the railroad running.

“You have to replace the ballast,” he said. “It washes away.”

The winter takes a toll too; the lake leaks a bit.

“It will hold water for about three-quarters of a day,” Gustafson said.

It’s real life and real civil engineering in miniature.

“If it happens to the big ones, it happens to this one,” he said.

One thing the full-sized railroads don’t have to worry about is clean track. To ensure smooth operation, the rail tops have to be clean to conduct power to the engine properly.

“I get down and do it by hand,” Gustafson said.

The long hours of running mean maintenance on the engines and cars too. He had to replace the motor in one after it burned out.

There’s also a lot of animation and sound on the layout. The chimney on a farmhouse smokes, animal noises are emitted from the barn and the sound of a player piano comes out of the saloon.

In addition, a P-51 suspended above the layout has a working propeller.

The layout will be open during daylight hours Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It’s located at 306 First Ave. N.E. in Dayton.