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Model railroad hobby spans generations for Nanoose Bay family

Youngster’s interest began when late grandfather gifted him a set
Troy van Dongen, 10, and his father Peter van Dongen are learning the ropes of model railroading together. (Janel van Dongen photo)

Model railroading is a hobby usually associated with older generations, but at least one young Nanoose Bay resident has been hooked on the little trains recently.

Troy van Dongen, 10 years old, was given a 1957 Lionel O-Scale model train set by his late grandfather, Colin Springford, on his eighth birthday.

Springford, who passed away in January 2021, originally received the train for his 12th birthday.

“I actually got my train from my Papa,” said Troy, who has been learning the hobby, along with his father Peter van Dongen, for the past two years.

Troy also set up a smaller, N-Scale railroad — he saves the 1957 model for special occasions, such as last year’s Railway Day at the Parksville Museum.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Model train enthusiasts enjoy special Railway Day at Parksville Museum

Troy picked up the N-Scale model from a Parksville games store run by Jim Bennett, who has been working with model railroads since the ’70s. He put together a track layout in the backroom of his store, Railyard Games, which has become a resource for people learning the hobby.

“It’s nice to have a bit of a hub for all the local hobbyists,” Peter said. “Every time we pop in there, there seems to be another model railroader there and you get to know who’s all involved and that’s been super helpful.”

Troy has been able to connect with some of the older hobbyists he meets at the store and they are quick to help him learn, Peter said.

Bennett said he hopes to organize a weekly model railroader night. Several years ago, before opening the store, he was part of a group of 10 enthusiasts who used to meet and he aims to bring that back.

Apart from running the trains, Troy’s favourite part is learning about the electronics and wiring aspect. Recently one of the switches on his N-scale model quit working properly. “I’m getting a new switch to replace it and I’m going to have to wire it back into the system to get it to work.”

“Troy’s probably more the electrician between the two of us,” said Peter. He added Troy is very mechanical, so “it’s a good hobby for him because he’s very good at troubleshooting and figuring out how to make things work.”

Troy also enjoys building the different structures, making the little trees and laying the track. He attended a model railroad show in Nanaimo, where he picked up some equipment for his N-scale set. He also anticipated heading to another show in Sidney this fall.

Peter said a lot of kids showed interest in Troy’s train setup at Railway Day last year. The two are talking with Bennett about starting a junior railroader club at Railyard Games in the fall.

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Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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