MOUNT VERNON — Little boys like Tom Brokaw, Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks and Neil Young all grew up to be adult aficionados of model railroading, and Michael Percy is among numerous area residents who are also smitten by one of the world’s most popular hobbies.
It all started for Percy when he was about 10 years old and received his first model train. What started as a childhood fascination blossomed into a passion, and now he is among Mount Vernon’s most active model railroaders.
A native of Mount Vernon, Percy studied photography at the Columbus College of Art and Design, and while living in Columbus he took a job working at a hobby shop.
“That pretty much cemented the deal,” he says. “I was around trains all the time and I was hooked.”
Percy returned to Mount Vernon 20 years ago when he purchased the Griffin Insurance Agency from his stepfather. He continues to run the agency today, and fills much of his free time with an ever-growing assortment of trains.
Percy is married, and he and his wife, Nicole, have two girls, Sophia, 7, and Lillian, 4.
Although he draws a distinction between his hobby and that of a model train collector — “I buy them to actually operate them,” he says — Percy has amassed quite an assortment.
Specializing in modern-era Norfolk Southern Railway replicas, he now has about 50 locomotives and between 600 and 700 railroad cars. He deals exclusively with HO-gauge trains which are 1/87th the size of actual railroad equipment.
“I’m interested in anything from the mid-90s to the present,” he says, “and I’m a prototype modeler. I focus on being as historically accurate as possible and I spend a lot of time researching the history of the trains and then detailing the models.”
Percy takes a keen interest in the Mount Vernon community and serves on the Board of Directors of the B&O Railroad Depot, Foundation Park and the Heritage Centre Association.
He recently helped plan and execute what the B&O Railroad Board hopes will become a Mount Vernon holiday tradition: a working model railroading exhibit at the B&O Depot on West High Street.
Beginning on the day of the Mount Vernon Christmas Parade and Walk, and continuing from 1 to 5 p.m. today, the first-time public exhibit has attracted several hundred visitors and has been well received.
Although not open to the public after today, the exhibit will remain in place until the end of the year for the benefit of events being held at the depot.
Scale models of the restored B&O Depot and local businesses give the exhibit a distinct Mount Vernon feel, and Percy said that he and fellow members of the Kokosing Valley Central Model Railroaders Club hope to build on that theme with an even larger display in 2012.
Model trains and Christmas go together like hand and glove, and Percy believes that visiting the historic B&O Depot during the holidays will become a lasting memory of the season for kids young and old.
Some of Percy’s handiwork is on display during meetings of the Kokosing Valley Central Club (7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month) at the Colonial City Moose Lodge on West High Street.
He also belongs to the National Model Railroading Association, the Norfolk Southern Railroad Historical Society and the Conrail Historical Society.
At home, his elaborate layouts occupy 900 square feet of space in his basement.
Asked for practical information for novice model railroaders, Percy suggests that they seek out an experienced modeler for advice to get their feet wet.
“They can also check out any local clubs,” he adds, “and there are any number of publications that would be helpful.”
Contact Bill AmickEmail
Rules: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don’t attack other commenters personally and keep your laguage decent.