Originally Published: December 3, 2009 10:54 p.m.
Click here for a video of Larry Davis' layoutTrains have fascinated Larry Davis since he was 4 years old, and he continues to be a model train hobbyist at age 61 by setting up public displays.Davis, a burly, bearded, pony-tailed native of Philadelphia, recalled when his grandfather, Charles Snyder, took him to the railroad tracks in Corydon, Pa., 57 years ago. Snyder worked for SKF, a company that manufactured roller bearings and other parts for trains."It's the first time I ever got close to the trains," he said. "We were sitting on a bunch of railroad ties and the big trains were going by. There was one locomotive. It was gigantic."The size of the locomotive frightened him, and Davis held onto his grandfather.Davis said he began cultivating his model train hobby at the age of 8 by collecting Lionel, O Scale HO model trains. Now retired from a 25-year career with the bridge division of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, he prefers N Scale trains because he deems them to be the most accurate.Davis and his wife, Mary Beth, moved to Prescott Valley from Egg Harbor, N.J., after he retired in 2000. He and Mary Beth, a retired schoolteacher, have no children."We traveled out here a lot, and we have been through the whole Western states," Davis said. "We liked the climate here and the beauty is unsurpassed."The Davises founded Prescott Valley N-Trak in 2001. While Larry Davis acknowledged it has only five or six members, he noted his chapter works with other clubs, such as the Mountain Valley N-Trak Group in Prescott Valley, to put on model train shows.They have set up train layouts, complete with landmarks such as Mt. Rushmore and the White House, at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds and the Prescott Valley Civic Center. They also have taken the layouts on the road to shows stretching from Redding, Calif., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.Davis and other hobbyists set up a layout Monday and Tuesday on the first floor of the Civic Center in advance of the Prescott Valley Holiday Festival of Lights Friday evening.His enthusiasm drew praise from two Prescott Valley men from separate clubs who helped him with the setup.Model railroading has become an extension of "living out the history of railroading in this country," said Gary Simons of the Northern Arizona Model Railroad Club and pastor of Davis's church. "I will help him with whatever he needs."Davis is a "craftsman and an artist," and so is Mary Beth, commented John Hinds of the Mountain Valley club."One thing that is very important to Larry is to share the hobby with young children," Hinds said.