Imagination keeps steaming for builder - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Imagination keeps steaming for builder

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Posted: Tuesday, February 6, 2007 5:35 am | Updated: 8:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Fishermen can be seen trying their luck on the banks of a small lake. Workers can be seen atop a building fixing the roof. Through it all, the trains roll by on their little tracks.

It would take a good hour peering closely at the tiny scenes, buildings and trains to see all there is to see in Sheldon Schusler’s imaginative town.

Look closely and you might find some surprises even Schusler forgot he added between the mountains, train tracks and roads of Pebble Beach and Southern Railroad. Hint: Look for the alligator, dinosaur and the protective goddess of the town.

“It’s whatever your imagination will let you do,” said Schusler, a retired insurance broker.

Schusler’s train layout is one of seven stops in the Shortline Model Railroad Club open house tour on Saturday afternoon in Sun Lakes and Maricopa.

It’s a project five years in the making and a labor of love for Schusler, who built the roughly 10-by-12 train layout in a small room attached to his Sun Lakes home.

The layout is what’s known as N scale, which means the trains are 1:160 scale of the real thing.

“This is his place,” said Shirley, Sheldon’s wife of 48 years. “His food is brought here.”

The town is run by a computer that allows Schusler to use a remote control and panel of switches to change the different configurations on everything from the lights on the building’s signs to the acceleration speed of the dozen or so steam and diesel engines chugging along the little tracks. Lighting creates the illusion of icicles forming on an “Arctic Refrigeration” sign.

It’s the little details and surprises that make the town fun to look through.

A small video camera is mounted on the caboose of one of the trains. The camera is hooked up to a television, which shows a passenger’seye view of the town from the train.

“You can just see why someone crazy like me can sit here for hours and play with my trains,” said Schusler, who lived in Tempe for 37 years before moving to Sun Lakes three years ago. “In the beginning, I thought I would enjoy just building the railroad. But I discovered I love putting everything together.”

Each of the 55 detailed buildings — from the cathedral, fire station and brewery — have been carefully assembled and painted by Schusler.

More than 100 tiny cars and trucks have been placed carefully around the town.

“There’s an awful lot of stuff,” said Schusler, who’s been fascinated by trains since he was a young boy. “The biggest problem is keeping the tracks clean.”

Open house tour

What: Shortline Model Railroad Club open house tour

Where: Pick up maps at the Sun Lakes Boulevard gate off Riggs Road, four miles east of Interstate 10

When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Cost: Free, donations will be accepted for two charities

Information: (480) 895-1162

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