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Mike and Bonnie Crider's Train Depot has only been open for a couple of months, but they have already seen a lot of excited customers who came across the hobby shop on their travels through Amish Country. "So far everyone's last words have been, 'you'll be seeing a lot more of me'," said Mike.
The idea to open Gone Loco, Hobby Train Depot came to Mike and Bonnie while they were looking over their extensive collection of trains. "Mike has been collecting trains for a long time," said Bonnie.
"My granddad had some trains and I have been collecting since I was a child," added Mike.
"We decided to turn Mike's passion for trains into a business and share it with the public," said Bonnie. The Criders knew there were plenty of hobby and collector shops in the area, but none that specifically catered to one particular hobby or collectors item - i.e. trains.
"It's nice to see the little kids faces light up when they come in and they see the trains run," said Mike, indicating the 40-foot layout that is still a work in progress. Two trains run side-by-side through an imaginary village that features a grocery and hardware store, pub, bike shop and even a building under construction (complete with workers inside).
As Mike fires up the model Pennsylvania 2-8-0 Steam Passenger train, you can hear the conductor running through a checklist of procedures before he gives out the "all ready" to leave the station. "The model train can do all the startup things a real train can do," said Mike. "You can even record your own voice as the conductor."
Smoke billows from the smoke stack and the train is on its way. (Bonnie pointed out that the train smoke can be purchased in any scent you would like.) It passes by the small town before it enters a tunnel through the mountain. As the train comes out the other side of the mountain, it passes over a trestle bridge that crosses over a small lake fed by a cascading waterfall from the mountain.
The details that go into this particular layout are stunning: from the snow-capped mountains and pines, to the cascading "water" down the mountainside, and even the pebbles, shrubs and miniature people that make the layout come to life.
Bonnie said, "It takes many years to develop a layout." "You're never done designing," Mike added, indicating that the current layout is still a work in progress. They both agree that this is all part of the fun in building a dream train set.
Feeling inspired by what you see? The hobby shop contains everything you need to get your own dream layout started - buildings, rocks and water, paint and molds, grasses, trees and miniature people, and unique items like corn stalks and hay bales. "Some people like to bring a little bit of the countryside back with them," said Bonnie.
Bonnie pointed out that these items are also popular for those that like to build their own Christmas villages. The different paint and molds are also popular among crafters.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced "engineer," you can find just about any style of train or track you are looking for. Gone Loco carries O Scale and HO Gauge trains and is a certified MTH and Lionel dealer.
Don't see what you are looking for in the store? "We can order anything anybody wants," said Bonnie. "It can be almost overwhelming," looking through all the trains, tracks and specialty items and trying to envision what kind of layout you want to do she added.
Spend some time talking with the experts (Mike and Bonnie) and discuss some of your ideas with them. They can help to point you in the right direction whether it's sharing some of their own previous designs or pointing you to a website with layout samples and ideas.
Bonnie pointed out that she is the visionary, coming up with the creative layouts for the track, while Mike is the "technical guy." He can walk you through all the specific electronics and gadgets you will need to make your dream track come to life.
If the model train world is completely new to you, you might be interested in checking out the "Ready to Run" room: a whole room dedicated to sets you can take home and set up in minutes. Themed sets like "The Polar Express" and "Thomas and Friends" are great for the kids. Gone Loco also offers different price levels depending on how serious of a train enthusiast you are: from beginner to advanced levels.
Trains are a great hobby to bring the family together. "I don't know why the art of train collecting seemed to get lost over time," said Bonnie. "Dig up grandpas old set and get together with the family. Trains are something that will always work if they are taken care of."
Gone Loco features trains that are scale models of an actual train that ran (or runs) in real life. These trains capture every detail of their real-life counterparts from the train number on the side to the fireboxes that light up as the train picks up speed.
"I like the history behind the trains," said Bonnie. "We have a scale model of the Lincoln Funeral Train." Bonnie explained the train was originally designed to carry president Lincoln and his family during his presidency. Unfortunately, the day Lincoln was scheduled to make his first trip on the train, he was assassinated and his first trip on the train was in his casket.
Mike and Bonnie Crider could talk trains all day. If you have the time for a little rail side chit-chat, you should plan a trip to the Gone Loco Hobby Train Depot: located at 10755 SR 39, Millersburg. Hours are Monday - Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information call 330-674-0093 or visit www.gonelocohobbytraindepot.com and find them on facebook.