ST. THOMAS TOWNSHIP >> In the St. Thomas countryside, trains weave in and out of the rolling hills of a village of 300 people, blaring their horns as they chug along past children playing a baseball game, sunbathers and even Native Americans of the old American west.
Of course it's not a real railroad. Rather it's the Dennis Creek Model Railroad, and all 125 feet or so of it are laid out in the backyard garden at the home of Les Tosten. It is a G-scale set-up, possibly the only one in the area, Tosten said Sunday while standing in the small shed that each train rolls into at the end of the day.
A dozen people milled about during the first open house of the year at Tosten's home at 3850 Wenger Road. This is just the second or third year for the spring event, but Tosten has opened his model railroad to the public near the start of fall for eight or nine years now.
Paul, a St. Thomas man who didn't want to share his last name, is already looking forward to coming back in the fall. He said it's the best of the 50 or so model railroads he has seen.
"It's outdoor, it's weathered, which makes it look good. It's a big one," he said.
With Paul was his son Edward, 10, and another boy, Wesley Burkholder, 15. They said their favorite part is the Old West area.
Tosten said there are some features even he doesn't know about, since his daughters often add things on their own. With one of those daughters is Kim Varner, who has been helping with technical jobs at the railroad for about three years.
"It's a talent. They have a great creativity, both of them (Les and his wife Connie) are very, very talented. The whole family is that way, you can tell by this," he said.
Tosten has spent most of his 81 years fascinated by the railroad industry, ever since hearing whistles every midnight from the tracks near his childhood home on Scotland Avenue. Some of his attention turned to the model variety as he got older.
"It's just a good hobby I think. It's better than watching TV all the time, sitting on the couch. And like I told you before, you get into carpenter work, you get into electrical work and, you know, there's just a lot involved in it," he said.
It was 12 or 13 years ago when the Tostens began assembling the Dennis Creek Railroad, named for the creek running through their property (kids are allowed to fish it). There are three sections, which came together as the model railroad expanded over the years.
Two people from Germantown, Maryland — Tosten's sister Ginger Pritchard and his brother-in-law Rip Ripley (the two are not married) — both had the same thing to say: It's nearly impossible to see everything in one visit.
For a first, second — or more — look at Dennis Creek Railroad, visit the fall open house in the third weekend of September. For more information, call the Tostens at 369-3664.
Amber South can be reached at 262-4771.