Coupeville man, a former teacher, shares love of model trains, scenes

Jack Tingstad runs his model train, an elaborate scene, through his house in Coupeville. The avid model train builder will open his home train track to the public for the 13th time on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.  - Sara Hansen / The Record
Jack Tingstad runs his model train, an elaborate scene, through his house in Coupeville. The avid model train builder will open his home train track to the public for the 13th time on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
— image credit: Sara Hansen / The Record

Walking into the downstairs of Jack Tingstad’s house is like taking a trip back in time. Trains traverse the old railroads of Colorado, making their way through mining towns.

“It’s a great hobby, especially in the Northwest during the winter,” Tingstad said.

Tingstad hosted his 13th model railroad open house Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at his home at 508 Broadway St. He has worked at the Gifts of the Heart Food Bank for 10 years, and asks those coming to see the trains to bring a donation.

The landscape depicted is of Colorado during the 1910s and 1920s. The red-toned rocks and aspens enamored Tingstad, in addition to the rich history the state provides for an avid railroad enthusiast. Colorado is the most replicated area for model railroaders.

“If Colorado disappeared tomorrow, you could just get model railroaders to build it again,” Tingstad said.

Some of the places Tingstad depicts are Salida, Tennessee Pass, Leadville, Silverton and Glenwood Springs. The station Tingstad built for Glenwood Springs is a scratch build — meaning he drew the plans himself and built it from raw materials not in a kit.

Other structures Tingstad has built have won awards over the years, such as his Crystal Rive Mine Structure — also a scratch build.

Tingstad taught for 25 years and retired in 1995, and has worked on model railroads since 1972. He likes sharing his hobby with others.

“The teacher thing was still there, and I wanted to teach people,” Tingstad said.

Tingstad wasn’t always into trains. In junior high, he would work on model ships. His neighbor built model ships as well, and Tingstad would work on his current project with him. His neighbor also had a model train, but Tingstad didn’t pick that up as a hobby until later.

A model railroad is a multifaceted hobby because it involves scenery, structures and the operations of the trains, Tingstad said. He’s learned to paint, sculpt and build structures. To create scenes is technical. When putting a scene in the distance, the scale has to be right to create the illusion that it’s far away.

There are meetings in Oak Harbor every month for model railroad hobbyists and about 35 people attend from all over the island, he said. Speakers come to the meetings and inform attendees about different topics.

Tingstad also meets with a group who work on operations. As his hobby grew, he needed a bigger room in the house to display his work. Over the years he’s expanded the space to include an adjacent room to help stage train operations. By expanding the staging area to the other room, it creates more operating potential, Tingstad said.

One of Tingstad’s favorite scenes he made is of the convicts who are working on the opposite side of the railroad tracks. Even though the supervisors are separated from the prisoners when a train goes by, they can’t escape because the drop-off is their only escape route.

Tingstad likes visitors taking their time to discover all the little scenes he created over the years. Since the open house takes place during the holiday season, visitors will also have to find where Santa and his helper are hiding. Tingstad puts them out every year for people to try to spot.

With all the thoughtful care Tingstad puts into his work, attendees will have a hard time finding every detail, but he encourages them to try.


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