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Mount Airy Man Builds Ride-Along Train In Backyard

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BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages

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By KELCIE PEGHER
Carroll County Times

MOUNT AIRY, Md. (AP) — It’s a smile that comes over the face of anyone who rides along on Jack Raines’ motor-powered train.

“That’s the look,” Lois Raines, Jack’s wife, said this month on an overcast afternoon, toward an 8-year-old Mount Airy boy riding on the train.

The look is pure glee — a mix of amusement and child-like wonder. Lois said kids, both young and old, love the ride-along train Jack installed 13 years ago. A man in his early 80s rode on Jack’s train this month, Jack said.

“There are gray-haired men you can just see them `ooh’ and `ahh’ when they walk up,” Lois said.

Before the ride-along train was built, Jack, a retired carpenter, began with miniature train sets. Twenty years ago Jack began to build a miniature train garden with 100 feet of railroad track around a gazebo in his backyard. He now has nearly a quarter of a mile of railroad tracks and 12 miniature trains that he and his son Phillip, 53, maintain.

During Mount Airy’s Fall Fest, the Raines’ open up their backyard to show the world Jack, 78, created in his backyard. The Whistle Stop Railroad is decorated with bridges and tunnels, and runs next to a small man-made pond with a working miniature mill.

It features homage to members of their family, Lois said. Jack’s parents were dairy farmers, so he installed a miniature farm. His daughter works at a hospital, which led to the inspiration of a hospital Jack made out of plywood, and holds a working model helicopter. Lois’ parents were from Baltimore, so the two found miniature townhouses and Jack lined them as rowhouses, Lois said.

Jack has always loved trains, but could not afford a set as a child, he said. In his adult life, Jack bought a few, and was eventually introduced to the type of trains which line his yard, known as g-scale trains.

The entire railroad track was installed just a few years after Jack began, he said, but he continued to rearrange the tracks and landscaping. Lois keeps up with the landscaping of the project, filled with shrubbery, which makes it look more realistic, she said. She also painted Jack’s replica of Camden Yards, and several pieces of the train garden.

“She acts like she doesn’t (like the rails), but I think she does,” Jack said.

Phillip Raines, of Frederick, operates the trains in a large caboose which acts as a control center for the trains. The trains live in Jack’s garage when they are not being used. The two begin to take out the trains at the end of March, and pack them up every year by the first frost, Jack said.

Tim Bennett, brought his train-riding 8-year-old son, Ryan, to the Whistle Stop Railroad after seeing a flier at Fall Fest this month. The trains will not operate in the rain, so the Mount Airy residents came to see the track.

Despite the overcast conditions, and repair work being done to one track, Phillip operated six miniature trains out of Jack’s garage and onto each different rail.

Tim said he couldn’t believe he’s been driving along Prospect Road for years and never realized the train gardens were just down the road. His son Ryan found Tim’s childhood train set a while ago and has been hooked since.

This month, more than 200 people came to visit the train gardens, Jack said.

The air carried moisture this month, which made the rails a little bit slippery, and caused a few derailments. Jack said derailments will happen in bursts.

“Some days you can run them all day long, it’s fine, you don’t have a bit of trouble. Then all of a sudden, it starts,” Jack said.

Phillip spent a fair amount of time lining up train cars following derailments. Phillip is the most efficient at setting up the trains from the control booth, Jack said. What takes Phillip an hour to do will take Jack two hours, he said.

Jack and Lois will change the trains on occasion, Lois said. A few years ago they did a spooky train for Halloween. Another year they dressed up as characters from the Wizard of Oz and made a Wizard of Oz themed train.

Jack also built the home the two live in, and similar to rearranging the tracks on his miniature trains, he has remodeled pieces of the home several times, Lois said.

“I’m just fortunate that I can come up with the ideas and he can do them,” Lois said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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