Frisco – In a big building dedicated to discovery in Frisco, you’ll find a smorgasbord of things to do. If you stay on track, all the way to the back of the building you’ll find a mighty display on a miniature level.
It’s called Traintopia and it’s part of the Museum of American Railroad in Frisco.
“You’ll see trains moving about while you actually walk around the entire layout,” Bob LaPrelle said. “You’re going to see seven different operating lines.”
Bob is the President and CEO of the Museum of the American Railroad. The museum is home to all sorts of big trains, and they are all historically significant.
“It’s an amazing creation,” Bob said.
Bob was all aboard when the museum was approached about receiving the train set as a donation from Jane Sanders. She had inherited the collection from her husband Steve. Steve was a former oilman and precious metals collector who owned a hobby shop and had a lot of love for little locomotives.
“She was in a real dilemma about what to do with this $1 million train layout that Stephen had built and it’s a win-win situation, because she was able to get it out of her home, sell her house, and we were able to add a fantastic exhibit to the museum,” Bob said.
Piece by piece, the train set was moved to Frisco and painstakingly reassembled.
“It really appeals to people of all ages,” Bob said. “I mean adults love it. The thing to notice on this layout is also the mural, the backdrop, which was actually hand-painted in the Sanders’ home and then we photographed it and reproduced it on the wall here in Frisco.”
Depicting the American Southwest from Dallas to Colorado, the massive 2500 square foot set with a quarter mile worth of track is stacked with scenarios.
“You’ve got the curio shops and the little tourist courts up here in New Mexico, very similar to what you would have seen in Cimarron Canyon,” Bob said. “New Mexico kind of transitions into Arizona. You start getting some beautiful colors and hues. Then it transitions into West Texas, so you got the oil refineries and you got the tank cars at the refinery loading up crude oil, going out by rail obviously, and then a small West Texas town. Downtown Dallas is really where it all culminates, and you have a very active Main Street from about 1965 showing all the theater marquees, all the tall buildings, the Magnolia building, the Adolphus Hotel, and even Durand Chevrolet. Then finally you end up at Dallas Union Terminal, where all the passenger trains arrived and departed from Dallas. Every time I look at this layout I see something new. There’s just so much finite detail, you know, that they brought into this layout, and they all tell a story of Steve Sanders. That’s what’s amazing. “
The town transitions between day and night. Blinking lights, signs, and the Palo Duro drive in take on an all new life in the darkness. It has been said the Devil is in the details, but here that means so much more. It’s the particulars in the people, and the curious conversations they all seem to be having with minute meanings in everything.
“One of the things that we’ve really tried to do with this layout beyond entertainment is to inspire a new generation, introduce them to the world of railroads and the world of trains,” Bob said. “There are still careers out there that people can pursue in the railroad industry and there’s a lot to learn from this layout. “
Be it day or night, you can stop by Traintopia and get a first class ticket to a world frozen in time on the tracks that now a treasure Texans can hop on board with. Traintopia certainly makes for a unique stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“This was only available to a small number of people that Steve knew and now everybody can enjoy it, so it’s a must see,” Bob said.