Road Trippin' : Back on track
MEDFORD, Ore. —
Train enthusiasts and hobbyists from around the globe know exactly where the town of Chiloquin is.
“Where's Chiloquin? Right next to Train Mountain,” Tom Watson says about a bumper sticker he wanted to create years ago.
The park is a sight you’d have to see to believe. Train Mountain Railroad is the world’s largest miniature railroad, with more than 36 miles of track on more than 2,200 acres of land. It spans two miles by four miles.
“This is the mecca of our hobby. I came up in mid-nineties and met the original owner and fell in love with the place. Then I made a deal with my wife that if we can move, because it was a 7 hour commute each way, that if we could move any place closer to Train Mountain, then she could retire,” Russ Wood says about moving up to Chiloquin to be closer to Train Mountain Railroad.
“Ever since I was a little kid... I've had this theory that all little boys and now I've learned little girls are all born with a train gene... the question is, is it recessive or dominant... mine's dominant,” Watson says. He’s the Operations Manager at the park. He says one tour of the place and he was hooked.
It wasn’t always full steam ahead for Train Mountain. It was founded by Quentin Breen and at times, its future was uncertain.
“When Quentin Breen died, he was in trouble with the IRS. There was a very huge IRS tax lien and over the course over 2 years, we negotiated a number and then we ended up buying Train Mountain from the IRS,” Wood says about the transition.
Now, the people of Oregon own the park and the volunteers help maintain it. There’s no charge to enter the park, although they do accept donations.
“We don't give train rides here, we give rail tours. Part of the tours, we stop frequently and explain that this kind of a special kind of enterprise,” Wood says.
This summer marks Train Mountain’s Triennial. It’s a huge event that pulls in people from around the globe.
“We have close to 1,000 people registered, we have close to 400 teams coming from around the world, 48 states and eight countries,” Wood says.
While parts of Train Mountain’s past may have been dark, volunteer say people’s love for trains won’t disappear any time soon.
“We get emails all the time from people who tell us this place is on their bucket list and they will eventually get here. This is kind of considered mecca for train people,” Watson says.
Summer hours for the park are 9-3 and volunteers ask any one who would like to come out and ride a train, to give the park a call to make sure someone is there.