Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater retiree's model train village keeps growing and growing

CLEARWATER

Dick Miller remembers growing up in tiny Magnolia, Ohio, during the 1930s. He particularly remembers the Pennsylvania railroad. "The main line from Chicago to New York went through our town," he said, "and many people were connected in some way to the line." His wife's uncle was a railroad engineer, and a neighbor worked on the steam engines. Miller, a carpenter who moved with his family from Ohio to Clearwater in 1972, retired in 1998 and had a yen to do something different with his skills. The railroad of his childhood came to mind. In 2005, a large train set started taking shape on the Millers' property, and it has been growing ever since.

"I absolutely love it," he said of his train village, which now consists of 42 handmade buildings along some 300 feet of track. The track winds around an enclosed lanai and then shoots through a small door resembling a pet exit. Outside, the G-guage track circles a wide swath of back yard, also home to rosemary, tomatoes, onions and hot peppers.

The "D & J" railroad, named for Dick and his wife, Judy, runs on remote control. A computer powers up the train with signals to the engine.

"The computer can tell the engine to start, stop or go in reverse," Miller said. "It will tell it to speed up, slow down or turn the bells on and off."

The village is intricate and meticulously detailed, requiring hours of work to maintain.

"Right now, remodeling my buildings has become a full-time job," Miller said, "like the two that were eaten by termites."

The 42 buildings scattered along the tracks include several white frame churches. One represents the church where the couple was married more than 50 years ago.

Other buildings include a train depot and a white frame house complete with a basement, windmill and outhouse reminiscent of the home where Miller grew up. The roof of the depot has more than 3,000 shingles, all made by Miller.

Miller, 79, designed and created almost all the buildings, including a farm supply store, saloon, sawmill and gas station. He made all the tiny machinery in the sawmill, as well as a trolley for rolling the logs.

Judy Miller said she, too, is heavily invested in her husband's hobby.

"I paint the buildings, make the signs and cut the stained glass windows in the churches," she said.

If passengers occupied the small trains gliding along on the backyard tracks, they would encounter beauty all along the way: a bridge, a rocky cliff, a waterfall and a waterwheel, along with lush vegetation.

"My greatest challenge has been getting that waterwheel to work right," Miller said. "Now I am planning to repair the tracks."

Weather often slows repairs, but so does the carpel tunnel disease that has affected Miller's ability to use his hands. It has slowed him down, he said, but it hasn't stopped him.

Miller owns about three dozen model railroad cars collected over the years.

"We used to go to train shows around the state," he said, "but we've bought cars everywhere."

One car resembling a caboose is actually a track cleaner with two little wheels constantly clearing dirt off the track.

The garage/workshop is stocked with a bench saw, a band saw, a joiner for smoothing wood, as well as pressure-treated pine, redwood and cypress purchased at a sawmill in Pinellas Park.

Train clubs are not for them, said Miller, but friends and visitors are always welcome to watch the trains zoom, or meander, through the scenic miniature town.

The village mainly is a source of joy for the couple, their four adult children, and 13 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It also gives structure to Dick Miller's day.

"I'm so happy he has something to keep him busy," Judy Miller said.

Correspondent Elaine Markowitz can be reached at bmarkow2@tampabay.rr.com.

Clearwater retiree's model train village keeps growing and growing 06/19/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 7:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries

    Blogs

    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.