‘All Aboard’ For The Resurgence, Nostalgia Of Model Trains
BROOKFIELD — With interest in a nostalgic hobby picking up steam in recent years, All Aboard Train Depot is the only stop you will need to get on track with a new or used model train collection.
The store, located in the rear of 457 Federal Road, opened in 2014. Owner Alan Bray, who owns the building as well as the electronics store sharing space with the Depot, said after a previous model train store closed in the building, he kept seeing customers pull in looking for it.
“I used to have people show up looking for the train store all the time,” said Bray. “And when I told them it was closed, they asked me if there were any others in the area.”
Seeing the large amount of interest in it, with no other similar stores in the area and having a lifelong love of trains himself, Bray decided to open his own model train store.
With the entrance dominated by Bray’s own childhood model train set, with some items in the display dating back to the 1950s, All Aboard Train Depot offers new and used model trains and accessories, as well as offering repairs for old trains and buying old train sets to resell.
Joe Grasso, an employee at All Aboard, said that interest in model trains has picked up even more since the pandemic.
“People have been doing a lot of cleaning and they’ve found old model trains,” said Grasso. “There’s been a rebirth in the hobby; people are feeling nostalgic.”
Grasso said that with some older people, when someone who collects trains passes, it’s left to their family to decide what to do with the trains. In some cases they decide to take up model trains themselves, and in others they “want to be sure the trains go to someone who will take care of [the train set].”
To that end, they not only buy used train collections, they also offer repairs to sets that time has not been kind to. The can repair engines, cars, transformers, etc.
“Some hobby stores sell some trains, but they don’t repair and maintain them,” said Bray.
With a photo of himself with his model train set from 1957 hanging in the store and his childhood train set in prominent display, Bray calls himself a “huge train collector” who had multiple layouts in the basement of his house.
Every piece in his childhood train set has a story, including the hill terrain feature which his father brought home in the back of a station wagon in 1956. The hill has a water feature that sends water down a water fill and into a pool at the bottom.
“I just love trains, I love everything about them,” said Bray. “As much as you see in the store, I had in my basement.”
Bray remembers buying trains from Max Trell’s Hobby Shop in Stamford.
“I used to buy trains from them all the time,” Bray said.
He said there are a lot of older people who love trains, and a lot of new children who are just discovering the hobby.
“Trains were very different 50 to 60 years ago,” Bray said. “Today there are trains that you can operate with your phone.”
Bill Wagner, an employee at All Aboard since it opened, said they have new people coming into the store who “don’t know a lot about trains,” and the staff is willing to help them decide what to get for themselves or their children. Wagner said his first train was an American Flyer Test Gauge.
Bray said that every day new customers come into his business, and there are currently over 1,000 customers on his register.
Grasso said that he always wanted a Lionel train set as a kid; he couldn’t afford trains by that company at the time so he owned sets from American Flyer or Athearn HO gauge sets (half the size of O gauge sets). Grasso’s first set was an Athearn HO New Haven Set that he would run on the floor on a piece of plywood and fake grass.
There were also a few model buildings he used around the set that his father built for him.
“Now I have the money for a Lionel train set,” said Grasso.
According to lionel.com, “on the real railroads as well as toy trains, gauge refers to the distance between the outside rails of the track.” Some model train gauges include G gauge, which is 45 mm and 1:24 scale; O gauge, 32 mm and 1:48 scale; S gauge, which is 22.48 mm and 1:64 scale; and HO gauge, which is 16.5 mm and 1:87 scale.
For Grasso, working at All Aboard Train Depot is one of those “fun jobs,” that he loves going to and where he’s “allowed to be a kid.” Grasso retired from the Air Force after 24 years of service and was a bartender who was constantly coming to All Aboard as a customer, “at least once per week.”
When COVID caused some of All Aboard’s staff to retire early, he took his chance and joined the staff.
All Aboard Train Depot is planning a 10% off Back Friday deal on every item in store, from model trains to transformers to terrain items in all scales. The sale is only on Black Friday, November 26 — trains and Christmas go together, as a model train around a Christmas tree is a long-standing tradition, said Bray.
Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.