2007 - Volume #31, Issue #5, Page #44[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Start Your Own Backyard Railroad
"This company is an outgrowth of our CEO's hobby," says Mark Strobel, national sales manager, Great American Train Company. "He started with live steam and put up a track in his backyard. His family and friends enjoyed it so much that he decided to start building them."
Ironically, the train company is an outgrowth of high tech Primera Technology. The company has been building computers and computer peripheral office equipment for 35 years. That expertise has been put to good use in the new train company.
"We designed and are building the train equipment with the same standards as our computer equipment, even getting UL certification," says Strobel. "We have a sub-woofer sound system inside the engine, so you get that ębig train' sound of steam, whistles and bells. Even the puffs of steam and smoke, which are produced from a liquid mixture, are timed to correspond to how fast the engine is traveling so it adds to the appearance of a real steam engine."
For $15,995, you get 220 ft. of track, a locomotive, tender, riding car and caboose. Additional track comes in 10-ft. sections. The 7 1/2-gauge aluminum rails and treated ties are light enough to carry under the arm and sell for $160/section. Additional riding cars cost $1,475 each. Everything is built at the company's factory in Minnesota.
"We plan to introduce a new car every 6 months," says Strobel. "The first one will be a ballast car for hauling rock for track building. A tank car with a spray system will be next for spraying herbicide on the track to hold down weeds.
"We are also planning a hand crank car for larger children or adults to use," he adds. "Kids love the prototype. It keeps them busy for hours."
Strobel acknowledges that the trains are not cheap. However, he points out, unlike some hobbies, it is one that can involve the entire family and can grow over time with the addition of tracks, structures, bridges, etc. It also doesn't require driving through traffic jams to get to a cabin on weekends.
The electric motors in the engine and the tender are powered by 6 deep cell, golf cart batteries that give 6 to 7 hours of use and recharge in several hours. Pulling capacity of the motors is 1,600 lbs. at a 3 percent grade. When pulling three cars and a caboose, that leaves nearly 800 lbs. of capacity for people.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Great American Train Company LLC, 2 Carlson Parkway North, Suite 375, Plymouth, Minn. 55447 (ph 763 476-5140; toll free 800 486-0553; fax 763 475-6677; mstrobel@ greatamericantrain.com; www.great americantrain.com).
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