It's a Small World After All: Harrisburg Man's Love of Model Trains
by Phil McIlrath, KDLT News
May 17, 2011 10:01 PM
Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes, from collecting Matchbox cars, to caring for a classic.
But one South Dakota man is taking his love of motion...for the locomotive...and shrinking it down to size...87 times smaller to be exact.
KDLT'S Phil McIlrath has our ticket to ride.
If you take a trip down county highway 110 into Harrisburg you'll travel over some tracks. Go a little further and you'll come to another crossing, but what's inside this home runs you off your rails.
"My wife calls this the train room, not the furnace room or the laundry room anymore,"said Alan Saatkamp, Model Railroad Hobbyist.
This used to be Alan's utility room in his basement, but 230 feet of track, 160 freight cars and 25 diesel locomotives took it over.
"I don't gamble, I don't drink, or have any other vices, so this is a good safe place for me to be on any given day or night,"said Saatkamp.
And day and night, for the last 20 years, Alan's tinkered with tracks, tweaked tiny trains, and lorded over life-like representations of real-life landscapes.
"But Alan has only doing this the last 20 years,"said McIlrath. "It started as a way to honor the memory of his father, in such a way, as to get his then, younger children involved."
"After my father passed away in 1992, my wife suggested we use a portion of the inheritance to buy something to commemorate him and something...quote...the kids would enjoy! It just sort of took off from there,"said Saatkamp.
Taking him to a place where things run on his watch. But these towns are not entirely fictional...they're all real places Alan recreated. He only used a little creative license when it comes to the naming of the architecture; mainly after friends and family.
"They're all flattered when I do it and it's fun to name industries after friends who have influenced me in the hobby,"said Saatkamp.
A hobby that came a long way in terms of technology, from the days of forwards and backwards, to fancy remote controls and even sound.
"It's not just the sight of the trains moving, you can hear the engine revving up, toot the horn when it's read to go, or go through a grade crossing, so I would say sound has added a whole other dimension."said Saatkamp.
And as years roll by, as cars get more advanced...and more expensive, Alan's passion for model trains will likely remain full steam ahead; even though they're all electric.
"Some of my friends are pushing upwards of 80 years old and I don't see at 62 why it's going to change for me."said Saatkamp.
Proving nobody gets too old to stop playing with toys.
It's not cheap Alan says to maintain his model railroads. In his 20 years in model railroads, he says he's spent in upwards of $20,000.