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Utica resident shares experience collecting model trains over the years

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 20, 2020

 Utica resident Jeff Carter has been collecting model trains, including these pictured,  for more than 40 years.

Utica resident Jeff Carter has been collecting model trains, including these pictured, for more than 40 years.

Photo provided by Nancy Carter


UTICA — Utica resident Jeff Carter has been collecting model trains for over 40 years, and many of those years, he collected with his dad.

Since 1979, Carter has been collecting model trains, which often included broken or damaged trains that he could fix.

He said the most interesting thing about model trains is working on them — “That you can take one that looks like garbage, work on it and bring it back to life,” he said.

Carter said he enjoys working on them with other people and going to swapping events with his family.

“I enjoy doing this (collecting trains) with my father, my brothers and my son and nephews. Besides running the trains, we get together and go to swap meets, and that is always fun, too,” he said.

Carter said he mostly likes to collect a certain type of model train because of his father.

“(An) American Flyer because that is what my dad had when he was a kid,” he said.

He said his favorite train out of all of them is the first train he bought with his father.

“(A) 0-8-0 Switcher — this is the very first engine bought, and my dad was with me when I bought it. As a matter of fact, I had to borrow the money to buy it,” he said.

The numbers in the beginning of the name represent the locomotive’s wheel arrangement.

Carter said he finds himself tinkering more with the trains during certain times of the year.    

“I tinker more during Christmastime and the winter,” he said.

He also builds different tracks for the trains to run on.

He jokingly said, “It’s an illness,” about his train collecting hobby.

Nancy Carter, Jeff’s wife, said she used to get slightly annoyed with Jeff’s hobby but eventually saw that it was a type of stress reliever for him and a sentimental part of the past.

“At first I used to roll my eyes. I still don’t speak the language, (train numbers) … but I really don’t mind them. I see him get lost in them, and it is a real stress reliever for him. It’s something he has loved since he was a small child when his father, two brothers and he would spend hours upon hours upgrading the layout and trying to get everything just right. Now that two of the four guys have passed, I think the trains are a sentimental hold on the past. I can’t get upset with that. However, he will sometimes make those suckers whine so loud. ... You know he’s just trying to bug me,” she joked.

She enjoys seeing visitors and family come over and check out the trains and bond over them.

“It’s neat when some of our friends with young children come over and we show them the trains. One little guy calls Jeff ‘Papa Choo Choo!’ It is so sweet! So yes, I guess I am a fan of them but not in the way that Jeff is. They are something that helps people make bonds with each other, and I’m always for that,” said Carter.