Model trains help local ALS Association this weekend

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) It's almost lunch time and office workers on the third floor of the Airport Gardens office building may have one eye on the clock. But up above their desks, another means of marking the passage of their work day rolls past--a model train--a replica of the Southern Pacific Daylight.

"Sometimes I'll set my watch to it and try to time it or piece out a calculation to see how much track he has," says Scott Menath of Menath Insurance.

The train traverses the entire third floor, peeking in and out of offices, running the length of the atrium.

At somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 feet, it may be the most extensive suspended model railway anywhere. And it's the expression of one man's lifelong passion for trains.

"Whether it's a little train or a big train, it's just a magical thing," says building owner Hawley McLean.

McLean inherited that passion at an early age. When the rest of us were playing with the O gauge set we got for Christmas, he was riding a much larger model around the family backyard in Southern California, behind a stunning real working model steam locomotive his father and family friend Walt Disney built together.

In fact, that very same engine was just installed in the conference room of his financial services company. It's just been restored by Gardnerville specialist Steve Alley.

It will be parked here; in between outings McLean takes it to other tracks throughout the West.

At this point you may be wondering what McLean's home setup is like.
Well, it's extensive. Various trains roll around and through his Arrowcreek Home on something like 3,000 feet of track.

They pass by structures he's built, in some cases memories from past travels, scale models of mountain resorts in Switzerland, for instance.

And, yes there's a new generation taking part. His two sons have caught the bug. Today they were setting out scale models of cars and people, a finishing touch on the whole display. They're getting ready for a special occasion, this weekend's Annual Water and Rails Tour.

With all of his waiting for him at home, it may be little surprise that it was bound to follow McLean to work.

"I spend more time here so I started looking around and thought 'You know it would be kind of neat to have a train running here."

There were skeptics. After all this is a place of business.

"We put it just in our office and other tenants on the third floor started out joking and said 'Can you run it in our office?" They all wanted it in their office and they just love it."

Menath laughs. "I keep telling Hawley one of these days I'm going to get my own train car, paint it with out logo and get a little free advertising through everyone else's office."

Trains, large and small, seem to bring out the kid in all of us.

"It brings back memories of Christmas, around the Christmas tree and your first train set-up," says McLean.

McLean's model railroads at home and at his office building are stops on this weekend's Water and Rails Tour featuring garden railroads and backyard ponds. It's a fundraiser for the ALS Association.

You'll find more information including tickets and maps by clicking here.