It’s not odd to find a train buzzing through Gardner, but it is unusual to find a locomotive steaming through a local backyard unless you live near Raymond Manley in the Pumpkin Ridge.
Manley, whose permanent Class G garden railroad was installed in his back yard in 2006, was featured on the 2011 National Garden Railroad Convention tour on Wednesday. Tour busses and individuals attending the convention, held in Ov
erland Park, dropped by Manley’s home to check out the train enthusiast’s set-up.
A 14-year Sprint employee, Manley has long had a fascination with the railroad. He once chased the world’s largest steam engine from Coffeyville, Kan. to Kansas City, Mo. where it was put on display as part of a train show.
“My interest in the hobby comes from a real love for steam locomotives,” Manley said. “I have an appreciation for trains. Anyone who’s ever seen (a steam engine) operate in real life – it’s nostalgic. I got into the hobby because I enjoy it.”
After following the steamer from Coffeyville and attending his first convention in 2004, Manley was inspired to create his own backyard line. Starting out with just 120 feet of track and one engine, the set up now includes over 700 feet of track and 26 engines.
“I sit out here every weekend,” said Manley, overlooking his backyard with trains chugging around the track.
Added former neighbor Dan Popp, “That’s how we met, out here in his backyard.”
This weekend Manley will put his knowledge of Class G trains to the test when he leads a project at the Great Mall of the Great Plains to construct the world’s longest train. According to Manley, an undertaking like this is no small task. He explained that building a train of this magnitude would require technical knowledge. Manley expects to attempt 1,500 feet of train running on 1,600 feet of track, a similar attempt by another enthusiast recently failed.
“It’s a huge feat,” Manley said. “To push and pull this much weight is a big undertaking. You have to balance it out just right, if not you’ll have derailments.”
Manley isn’t sure if his train at the Great Mall will be eligible for the Guinness Book of World Records. The current record-holder is an HO scale class of trains – constructed of much smaller 6-inch cars. In April a record-holder built a train 900 feet long, something that would be impossible with G scale trains where each car stretches over a foot long.
“In the end we’re going to build as long a train as possible and we’re going to document it. We’ll submit it to the Guinness Book of World Records – I don’t know if they’re going to look at scale or at length – but if it’s by scale we can beat (the record),” Manley explained.
The World’s Longest Train Project will be on display at 9 a.m. in the former Steve and Barry’s store located on the west end of the Great Mall of the Great Plains.