|Max Timmons began working for the Nickel Plate Railroad as a
pipe-fitter in the late 1940's. He thoroughly enjoyed working on those
wonderful steam engines. He especially loved to hear the whistles. By 1952
he and his wife had two young sons, Terry and Robert. |
When he was
asked what he wanted for Christmas, his reply was "TRAINS!".
wife, Naomi went on a hunting expedition to see what she could find.
She located a used steam engine in a local hobby store and thought it
would fit the bill.
This very engine is still on display, labeled
From then on, trains were his main-stay. Every
gift-giving occasion was met with trains. Most were purchased through
newspaper ads, or sales at local hobby stores. There were sets, engines
In the early 1960's his job was terminated by the
merger of the NKP with the N&W.
Since the family still needed to
be supported, he went into business for himself doing home repairs and
improvements. In his "spare time", he and his sons played with the trains.
They ran them in the living room. They ran them through the dining
room. They eventually moved them to the basement where they had their own
room. It was such great FUN!
Then they tried to expand into the
laundry room. The battle lines were drawn and MOM won - NOT in MY laundry
room! Since they were prevented from expanding outward, they went upward.
The layout grew bigger and better all the time as they were always adding
something new. There were 3 levels and three main lines, plus several
Then on July 4, 1969 there was a thunderstorm that
dropped so much rain that it flooded the basement and threatened the
trains. (The picture shows the Railroad underpass in Bellevue,
Ohio completely filled with the flood waters) Water was nearly 3 feet deep
in the basement and Max & the boys were wading in
to rescue what they could. No trains were lost, but the layout was a bit
soggy for a while. Max's health began to deteriorate. He was no longer
able to work as he once had, so Naomi went to work, and Max "retired".
So many of their friends had seen his "toys" in the basement that
they, along with Naomi, tried and tried to convince him to go public with
his hobby. He let them all know how crazy they were! At last, he gave in
and the search was on for a building. After a long drive and many phone
calls, a small building was located on the Marblehead peninsula. A
three-year lease was signed and construction began in 1971.
home, in Bellevue, dismantling the layout was under-way, and on the move
to Marblehead. With what he felt to be all the room he needed he chose a
corner and began to build benchwork, scenery and lay track. This would be
Max's new business. Both sons were offered a part in it, Bob declined,
Terry's fiancée, Maggie, also agreed to join in.
Money was needed to finance the building project, so Mom & Terry
worked at their respective jobs, and Paw (Max) and Maggie worked to get
things up and running. Mom & Terry came over as much as possible.
Thus the construction was completed and "Peninsula Train-O-Rama"
was opened for business in June of 1972. The admission charge was $1.25
for adults, $.75 for children.
It was Paw's idea to have some way
to track where our visitors came from so we put up some poster-board with
a listing of all fifty states and room to add a few foreign countries as
needed. The very first person in was from Indianapolis, Indiana and paid
his admission with a silver certificate. We expected Canada to be the
first foreign country represented, but much to our surprise, a man from
Scotland came in followed shortly by someone from India, then France. We
have faithfully kept up the tradition of the "State Board" all these
years. (There are now 85 Foreign countries) Business was a little slow,
but we were encouraged by the reaction of our first visitors.
just loved to watch the expressions on people's faces, especially the
"little guys", as they watched the trains running everywhere. We also
discovered that we didn't have nearly as much room as we first thought. We
needed a bigger place.
Terry & Maggie were married in Oct. of
1973 and our current lease was up in January of 1974. We were asked to
purchase the building or move. Since we needed more room and were unable
to pay the price, we went looking again. We also decided to drop the
"Peninsula" from our name and go by the name, Train-O-Rama
this time, Paw noticed that Fort Firelands could use some help so he
checked into it. We spent the winter of '73 moving and re-building. The
lake was the only portion of the layout to remain fully in-tact.( Although
the river was cut into at least 2 sections.) The first year (1974), we
only used half of the building we were occupying at Fort Firelands. At
this time, we were still running only O and O-27 gauge trains. In 1975 we
decided to expand into the other half of that building. Comments from so
many visitors prompted the decision to use other gauges also. A local man
donated our first Standard gauge train set complete with track. We also
decided to try S-gauge and HO.
For 1975 through 1977 we ran and
improved upon our enlarged layout.
In the fall of 1977, Fort Firelands
declared bankruptcy. Since we were still a separate entity, we decided
that we must leave. We borrowed all the spare room we could find from
friends to store all the trains, equipment and pieces of the layout. And
once again, the search was on for a new home! We just couldn't move fast
enough to be open for the '78 season, so we just kept on looking until we
found someone who was willing to take a chance and build us a building.
This new building was ready for occupancy in January of 1979. We had
agreed to do all the interior finish work ourselves so we went to work
immediately. We enlisted the help of all the friends who were willing and
able to work.
There were many days when Paw worked 8-10 hrs. all
alone in the COLD building on scenery or wiring. He said the worst thing
about it all was the MANY hours spent wiring and doing other things that
had to be done, but couldn't be seen by anyone else. There was drywall to
put up, benchwork to build, scenery to form, walls to paint, track to lay,
etc, etc, etc.. He had so many plans for different areas of the layout! He
kept all these plans in his head - he never put any of it on paper!
Amazingly, we opened the doors on June 23, 1979 in our present location,
with only about half of the layout fully completed.
In the next
couple of years things were finished up and the changes began. Max's
health continued to decline, but he had a very strong desire to continue
working on his "labor of love". He told us of his plans for additions
never gave us any details of those plans.
We all knew he wanted to put
in a monorail but he never said how he would do this. In the winter of
1982 his health was very poor, and in January of 1983 he went on to be
with the LORD. We all missed him, but had promised him we would carry on
It was 1985 before we found the parts he'd hidden to
use for the monorail, and then we didn't know HOW he wanted them
installed. We ended up doing our own thing in erecting it. We feel he
would be proud of the changes and additions we've made since his passing.
We have grown and expanded over the years, and have been honored
to host several television personalities and had interviews aired on
Cleveland and Toledo stations
(WKYC 3, WJW 8, and WTOL 11), and
numerous stories in local newspapers.
In addition to all this
publicity, we also appeared on the nationally syndicated "PM Magazine" in
1981. In April of 1995 the decision was made to become a year-round
operation, and to begin selling Lionel trains, (After all, It was a Lionel
train that started it all!)
And Max said it was a DUMB idea!