For Harrington resident George Pechin, Jr., his love for model trains didn’t diminish in his youth.
As a child, Pechin was introduced to train sets by his father, who gave him his first train at the age of 8. Now as an adult, Pechin still works with his father to create a magnificently realistic train layout, tucked away in a 30-by-32-foot room in his garage.
Thousands of multi-colored cotton trees line the mountains above more than 1,000 feet of tracks, which wind their way amongst cities, through tunnels and across what will soon be bodies of water. After 12 years of working on his masterpiece, Pechin still has a lot more to accomplish in the major construction of the train display, not to mention adding more minute details, like miniscule birds and people.
Only a few others have worked on the display, including his father, son and the occasional help from his four daughters. And while he has kept the display relatively private throughout the years, he recently decided to participate in Seaside Hobby’s Christmas Train Tour so that he can share it with others who enjoy the hobby.
“Learning how to make them realistic and how to build them to look realistic is what it’s all about,” he said. “I want to share that with people who enjoy the hobby.”
Throughout his years of enjoying train sets, Pechin has picked up quite a few artistic skills along the way. Not only does he have a collection of more than 30 trains, he also knows how to weather the scenery, using detailed techniques picked up in magazines and by visiting other train enthusiasts’ displays.
But it was really his side-by-side work with his late friend Bill Emory, the only non-family member who worked on the set, that helped Pechin develop his skills. Emory’s talent for creating mountains, rocks and scenery supplemented Pechin’s knack for the buildings, and helped him develop the skills needed to make his display look so realistic.
“We were train buddies,” Pechin said. “We taught each other things.”
In honor of Emory, Pechin named the largest mountain in the display after him, after Emory strained his back working 7 feet up on the mountain. Mount Emory is the only part of the display that has actually been named, as he is still developing the layout of the cities and towns along the bodies of water that still need to be filled.
The set is modeled after the towns around the Appalachian Mountains, inspired by the beginning days of the Penn Central Railroad. However, Pechin said he has let his creative side truly dictate how the project unfolds.
Page 2 of 2 - “My train layout wasn’t designed, I did it as I went, as I see it,” he said. “Building something that looks so real is satisfying to me.”
But Pechin said that the real satisfaction that he gets out of his train display comes when he is quietly working alone in his garage, usually during the winter and on Sundays, and can listen to the gentle hum of the trains running along the tracks.
“It’s the most relaxing thing to me,” he said. “I can come in here for 12 hours and not think about anything else. It’ll never be finished, and I don’t want it to be. That’s the whole fun of it.”