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Inside Track: Avon couple takes train hobby to mountain highs

Inside Track: Avon couple takes train hobby to mountain highs

By Lindsay Doty 

John and Connie Coy live in Avon, but down in their basement, it’s always vacation in Montana’s Rocky Mountains.

Tucked downstairs, they have an impressive O-gauge model train layout covering 1,300 square feet. It replicates the couple’s favorite getaway spot along the northwestern section of Montana’s Glacier National Park.

“We just fell in love with it. This is our depiction, Connie and mine, of the real train line that runs through Glacier National Park, ” said Coy, a model train aficionado.

The layout boasts 500-feet of track. It has roughly 400 train cars and 30 to 40 engines, a mix of steam and diesel.

The locomotives wind through rustic towns, snowy mountaintops, glacier-carved valleys, tunnels and over an impressive wooden trestle bridge built from scratch.

“I mean, I made this piece by piece. It took about 50 or 60 hours to build that,” said John Coy.

Model train hobbyist John Coy and his wife Connie stand in front of a scenic bridge in their Glacier Line basement layout. The Avon couple designed the layout to look just like their favorite vacation spot in Montana’s Glacier National Park (Photos by Lindsay Doty)

The 59-year-old hobbyist started constructing Glacier Line in 2011. He did the woodwork and electrical wiring. Connie painted the artistic backdrop.

Everything you see is a reflection of the wilderness site that straddles the U.S. and Canadian border. Mountain goats and fisherman figurines decorate the woodland and glacier valleys, alongside historic sites.

“You can see Connie and me up on the hill on horses,” said John who pointed to a tiny redheaded figurine that mirrors his wife’s fiery hair.

He can often be found at the computerized hub of his layout, a collection of colorful buttons and remote controls to run the engines and uncouple the wheels.

His pride and joy is his Great Northern 4-8-4 No. 2584 steam locomotive that puffs real steam as it chugs through the layout.

“You could say I’m heavily involved,” he said jokingly. “That is the understatement of the year.”

The Hoosier, who grew up near Turn 3 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, became fascinated with trains at a young age. His grandfather and uncles worked on the railroad.

Coy never wanted to have the life of a railroader but never stopped dreaming about locomotives.

He got his first toy train set in 1964, an American Flyer wind-up.

“All it did was go around a circle of the track, but I loved it. You could say the rest is history,” he said with a laugh.

Today, John is a part of the model train show circuit. He’s an officer with the Central Indiana Division of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) and even sings and plays in a band with a railroad theme.

Every other Sunday, the couple hosts “train night” where other hobbyists delightfully visit the basement to run the engines and talk shop.

Coy calls his hobby a teaching tool.

“It will teach you electricity, carpentry, art, science, physics, it is something.”

Avon Parks and Recreation partnered with Coy for a Holiday Ornament event in December. Town leaders say the holiday-themed layout Coy brought was such a hit, so they partnered with the hobbyist for an upcoming train display at Avon Town Hall. Coy plans to bring one of his portable layouts and join other hobbyists to share their love for model trains.

“I just hope to get more young people interested in trains,” Coy said.

If you go

What: Avon Model Train Display

When: 10 a.m-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1.

Where: Avon Town Hall Chamber, 6570 E. U.S. 36 Avon

Cost: Free

No sales. Train talk and displays. Scavenger hunt for kids

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