CHISHOLM — Those who have ventured into Troy Pendzimas’s basement know that neither he nor his basement are ordinary.
It only takes going down a couple of steps before a nearly six feet high wooden framework grabs one’s attention.
That platform is just the beginning of what is a three level, 21 feet six inches long by 12 feet wide train yard that contains a total of 530 feet of train track.
Building railroads began as a common hobby between Troy and his father, George Pendzimas, but now it means much more to him.
The project, which is more than three years in the making, began as a request by Troy’s daughter for a train set, and now it’s what brings them closer.
“It’s been such a big part of our lives,” he said. “It’s helped us connect. It means a lot to me.”
Though Troy is starting to see some payoff, he admitted the project has been a lot of work.
“Hours and hours and hours,” he said. “It’s quite the feat.”
Troy’s done a remarkable job, said George, adding that a project of this scale requires a lot of steps, details and skills.
“You’ve got to know math, know electrical, carpentry, a little bit of everything,” he said. “A person has got to be a jack of all trades and a master of none to do this project.”
The project originated as a small 4 foot by 8 foot model in a one bedroom apartment. After Troy moved, he was able to expand the railroad to 9 foot by 9 foot.
“It didn’t look right, and I wasn’t satisfied,” Troy said.
He then decided it was time to call up his dad for advice.
George, who has worked as an engineer for the Duluth Depot and had previous experience building model railroads, was living in Mexico at the time but agreed to help out.
The two began working together via webcam and the project quickly erupted to its current size.
The duo would spend hours at a time chatting over the Internet with George pitching in concepts and suggestions while Troy proceeded to put the railroad together.
George is now back living in Chisholm, which has added a boost to their progress.
The design of the railroad is end scale and is projected to have a fourth level before it’s done, Troy said.
The Pendzimas have named the railroad “Fallen Flags” based off of four discontinued railroads, including Spokane Portland Seattle, Chicago Burlington, Great Northern and Northern Pacific.
Everything incorporated into the design is based off of the 1920s to 1960s with nothing later than 1965, Troy said.
“We wanted it to look old and rustic,” he said. “Before the transition to Burlington Northern Sante Fe.”
The scenery will be made out of plaster and foam including cliffs, lakes and waterfalls as well as three train depots and some gag stuff such as an outhouse.
The trains, bridges, depots and tracks are all realistic and prototypical, said Troy. He noted the design is customized.
“It’s our own little fantasy world,” he said.
The design is unique in the concept doesn’t use a helix, which is typically used to keep the train going around and continuing upward, George explained.
“Everyone tells us ‘it won’t go, it won’t work,’” he said. “Well … it will work.”
The Pendzimas are currently working with 36 locomotives, but the design has the ability to run up to 120 units. Each locomotive is hand assembled and costs between $80 to $250, Troy said.
“They come with hundreds of pieces,” he said. “It’s very meticulous and a project of its own.”
There is a lot of work left to do, he added.
“Years, it’ll take years,” he said. “It’ll never be finished. There will always be changes to the scenery and the rolling stock.”
Once the project is ready to run, it’ll be operated off of Digitrax, an all-digital system powered by a computer.
His family has been a big supporter and assistance, Troy acknowledged.
His grandmother has provided him with some lumber, and he’s gained a lot of knowledge regarding electricity from his grandfather.
Yet, Troy gives his father the most credit.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without him,” he said. “He’s helped me so much.”
The railroad has strengthened his relationship with his father, Troy said.
“I love him,” he said. “I’m so happy he’s here to help.”
In case he ever moves, Troy designed the railroad in sections to ensure it’s moveable.
“If I have to move, I won’t leave without it,” he said. “Wherever I go, it better be able to go or I won’t. It means too much to me.”
It’s been a fun project, Troy said.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I can’t wait to get working on it again. It’s been pretty fun so far, but it’ll be more fun when I can start running it.”