Must-see model railroad open for viewing in Coupeville

Jack Tingstad will open his home in Coupeville to visitors for a viewing of his 'must see' model railroad layout.

The beauty is in the details.

The burnt reds and browns of the rocks and autumn trees, the miniature figures posed in midstride painting, repairing a roof or breaking rocks on the chain gang.

It’s the setting for the HO-sized trains that loop around the small towns of the Colorado countryside all created painstakingly by Coupeville model train layout artist Jack Tingstad.

For the eighth consecutive year the layout will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29 and Sunday, Nov. 30 in conjunction with National Model Railroad month.

Tingstad has been collecting model trains for more than 50 years — since he was a teenager.

In the past, he has attracted more than 200 visitors to view his layout, including train buffs, modelers, artists and wide-eyed children.

“To me, it’s like an animated work of art that moves,” Tingstad said.

Indeed, the layout is similar to a film set with its painted sets replicating fields with cows, horses, people, lighting and sound effects.

“The detail in the sets; that’s what brings them back to my layout,” he said.

Tingstad said a recent trend in model railroading is to have trains running both through the staged towns, and through an off-stage area too. One train prepares to make its entrance, comes on stage and then goes off again — creating the very real effect that not everything can be seen at once.

“Sometimes folks come back for a second look, hoping to find a time when there are fewer people in the train room,” Tingstad said.

Usually there are fewer visitors later in the day.

Each year, the guests look for added details that were not there when they visited previously. This year there are several engines equipped with numerous sound effects which gives the moving trains a more realistic effect.

People of all ages visit Tingstad’s layout, sometimes for hours, to watch the several different trains pulled by steam engines traverse through the recreated Colorado towns in a 12-by-21-foot room.

Visitors often find figures, vehicles, or other attention grabbers that have been in place for years, but they missed on a previous viewing.

Tingstad said he enjoys operating the trains. But he doesn’t do it alone. Ten other skilled train operators join Tingstad to control the delicate dance of the moving trains.

“It’s just like the real railroads,” he said.

The system is run by a digital command control.

“A controller needs to know what they are doing in order to coordinate the movement, passing and switching of a train with the others. You need to have a gentle touch,” he said.

According to hobby industry magazines, model railroading is often referred to as “the world’s greatest hobby,” because model railroading includes a variety of crafts such as carpentry, electricity, electronics, building and detailing engines and rolling stock, small scene animation, sound effects, scenery, backdrop painting and operations.

It’s the scene animation that Tingstad favors.

“I chose Colorado for its trees, the aspens, the rock formations and the red and brown colors. I’m a fall person. I’m drawn to those colors, and Colorado has all of that,” Tingstad said.

Tingstad’s layout was selected as one of dozens in the Puget Sound area that were on a tour schedule in 2004 for the National Model Railroad Convention held in Seattle and dubbed a “must see” by the convention committee.

Admission to the layout is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring a donation of one nonperishable food item for Gifts From The Heart food bank.

The layout is located at 508 Broadway St. in Coupeville. For directions, call 360-678-5120.

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