The Passion of Nick's Minature World
by Marvin Kusmierz
December 10, 2004
There are some people whose passion for a subject is so great that it becomes an obsession. We all know one or at least about one these individuals. Let me introduce you to another one, Nick Clement of Bay City, Michigan, whose has a passion for miniature trains.
I’ve known Nick for over 30 years. We worked for the same company and enjoyed a friendly relationship for all those years. We even golfed in the same league and exchanged ribbing, but until it wasn’t until I retired four years ago that I understood the passion Nick had for his hobby. I knew he had a large display of miniature trains in his basement, and I had even seen it. However, I assumed he was a collector of the hundreds of items that he had on display.
My understanding of Nick’s hobby all changed the other day. I stopped by his house to return a book that I had borrowed from him over a year ago. I needed to relieve myself of the guilt feeling that had lingered for months about my abusive delinquency in this matter. He greeted me with a smile and casually brushed off my apology for having taken so long to return his book.
Ue invited me in and we sat down at the kitchen table. I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the kitchen cabinets were, they were a light creamed oak in color and they really brightened up the kitchen which had patio doors on one wall that led to a deck and the backyard.
Nick asked, “Do you like them?” “I sure do!” was my reply. “I made them,” he said. I was astonished , I had no awareness of Nick’s carpentry skills. But, it’s not surprising because Nick isn’t a talker, he’s the quiet type that requires some probing to get information out of him.
My last visit to Nick’s home was three years ago. I was retired from work and I had plenty of time on my hands. I knew he had constructed a new train display in his backyard which I thought I would get a look at. I should have known then that Nick was a builder. Right behind his two car garage was a landscaped train display running the width of the garage. It was complete with buildings, trees, shrubs, gravel, etc.
As we sat at the table, I could get a glimpse of the display through the patio doors. I asked him about it wondering if he had made any changes since my last visit? “Come, I’ll show you what I’m working on,” he replied.
We headed for the basement where his miniature train display was and his work room. He flicked the lights on which revealed a large room of which full three-quarters of the area was devoted to his hobby. His displayed was arranged in a u-shape with the control center in the middle of this miniature village that came to life with the flick of a switch. My first impression of the set up was one of awe. It was a huge array of lights and moving objects that bewildered the eyes and required time to focus in on the details of this creation. A series of small unique buildings simulated a village town and a main street and several train tracks that connected to the other areas of the board. Over in one corner of the board was an industrial area complete with a cement plant, working wood mill and other factories. Nick’s fetish about carnivals dominated a full third of the display with swirling amusement rides and other related novelties of carnival life. Among the miniature structures must have been a thousand or more scaled objects such as, people, vehicles, light posts, trees, shrubs, fences, chairs, and even tiny carts, picks, tool boxes, hammers and others. Some so small they had to be picked up for a closer look to determine what they were. Everything was tied together by a system of train tracks chugged around bends and throughout the display.
“Come, I’ll show you what I’m working on for the outside display,” he uttered. He opened the door to an adjacent storage room with shelves and a table top were filled with small wood buildings ranging in width from a foot to almost three feet. I noticed that one looked to be still in construction, and I asked, “Are you making this one?” “I made everything you see,” was his reply, “Including the miniature display items in the other room.”
I was flabbergasted, I had no idea! I knew he had made some display objects like the trees and shrubs, but I had assumed he purchased most of the other objects. He reached into a box on the shelf and pulled out a handful of small people figures and other objects like a pick axe, sledge hammer, chair, car jack, etc. He explained, “These, the cars, trucks and other miniature objects I cast from molds. I also make the lamp posts and other lights that way, and the wiring for each of them.”
My attention returned to the large buildings for the outside display, “You bought these, right?”
He said, “No, like I said, I make everything. Notice the roofing of the round house on the table. There are over a thousand wood shingles that I had to make to get the effect I wanted. And, this windmill I constructed out of tin. Come on, I’ll show you my workroom.”
My first sight of the workroom created the impression that I had left a home and had entered into the work space of a small factory. There was every piece of equipment a builder could want or desire, all devoted to creating the miniature objects of Nick’s hobby. He even had a dust collecting system to help keep the area clean of the floating particles generated by shaping, grinding and cutting equipment. On a long working surface were boxes of miniature objects in process that needed to have rough edges ground or were ready for painting. A large stack of silicon molds stood ready for casting another series of objects.
Nick’s workroom was indeed a small factory capable of producing thousands of these miniature metal objects and wood structures. I thought surely he must be selling some the things he makes and inquired about it. “Nope! This is my hobby, not a business,” was his reply. I couldn’t help but chided him a little about the unsuccessful dairy business he owned a decade or so ago, “You should have opened a hobby shop instead of that dairy.” A smile came across his face as he chuckled his reply, “I know!”
Nick's Miniture World Slide Show.
The molds used by Nick for creating his carnival rides are owned by Cummons Scale Amusements, Inc. They offer finished items for sale which may be seen on their website.