Expert specializes in model train layouts for small rooms

EVERETT — Mike Scheerens has been a model train enthusiast his entire life.

When he was about 10 years old, he watched his father, James, build tracks for HO-scale trains, one of the largest models available. When his father tried a smaller model called N-scale, Scheerens remembers the size was better suited for him.

“He tried fiddling with the N-scale and he couldn’t do it because it was too small,” said Scheerens, 47. “He threw it away and I took it out of the garbage later and fixed it. I got it working.”

That fascination with model trains hasn’t disappeared. Scheerens earlier this month published a book, “Apartment Model Trains: Two Examples,” to share what he’s learned about building model train layouts in small apartments. It’s also a way to preserve the ideas he originally posted to a website.

Scheerens in December 1999 started building a model train layout that would loop throughout his roughly 500-square-foot, one bedroom Everett apartment. He attached the railway to wooden planks and positioned them under cabinets in his kitchen, around a stacked washer and dryer, and eventually around his bedroom.

He designed paper mountains and painted broken foam pieces with beads on it to look like seawall or rock. His basic construction tools were a 25-foot tape measure, a 45-degree triangle, pencils, a handsaw, Elmer’s wood glue and a cordless screwdriver fitted with drill bits.

The whole arrangement had to come down in 2007 when Scheerens, who works at Boeing, moved into a two-bedroom apartment. He dreamed up a layout supported on the tops of bookshelves and plastic storage containers. The layout wasn’t completed in 2011 when Scheerens moved again into his approximately 900-square-foot home. He started in September to build another layout where his black Lionel locomotive can now pull several cars along part of his living room wall. He’s planning to expand the route throughout his home.

“It’s kind of like an art,” he said.

Scheerens said he’s found most of what he needs to build his layouts at local hobby and hardware shops.

One store which supplies Scheerens and others who build model train layouts is Broadway Hobbies in Everett. The store hosts a train club so people can share their layout ideas and problem-solving tips. The club’s discussions often include ways to build layout in small spaces, said Lou DeBenny, the store owner.

His store also sells magazines and books that can help create layouts, DeBenny added. Still, the most common problem he’s heard when it comes to building happens when the designing and buildings is supposedly complete.

“The beauty is that the second they say they’re done, they want to do something different,” he said.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

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