December 2012 home page

Workin’ on the Railroad:
Verne Yates, Local Switchman
Sherryl L. Parks | Kalamath Drive


Verne Yates at the switches. Photo Art Olson


SP: Why did you decide to build a garden railroad at your home?
VY: I have a lifelong love of trains. When I retired, I decided to build a garden railroad so I could indulge my childhood interest in model trains on a larger scale. I joined the San Diego Garden Railroad club to learn about the hobby.

SP: How did this interest in trains develop?
VY: All eight of my father’s family who grew up in Montana worked for railroads or married someone who did. After World War I, my father and three of his brothers went to work for the Wabash Railroad as signal maintainers in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. When I was in high school and college, I had summer jobs working on a signal construction gang all across the mid-west.

SP: Did you have model trains as a child?
VY: I had a simple Lionel model train as a child, then built more complicated train layouts for my sons and now I am the perfect example of the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

SP: Tell me about your trains?
VY: The trains are G scale (1 inch equals 2 feet) and the engines are built by LGB in Germany. I grew up in the steam engine era and watched the railroads shift to diesel engines so I have a steam engine from the early 1900’s and a diesel engine from the 60’s. I have models of older wooden boxcars, cattle cars and a caboose as well as more modern steel boxcars, coal cars and tank cars. In addition, I have a string of 20’s-era passenger cars and a wonderful circus train. The engines use battery power, have sound, and are radio-controlled.

SP: Tell me about your train layout?
VY: The layout is installed in a courtyard that is 16 feet by 32 feet and is elevated about 18 inches. There are two complete tracks that cross over and under each other with three bridges and a tunnel. Included are a depot, a farm, wild animals and several dinosaurs. The tracks end around the side of the house at a train barn where I store the trains and recharge the batteries.

SP: When do you operate your trains?
VY: All of my grandkids (10) have operated the trains and I have had many visits from friends who bring their grandchildren to see and operate the trains. I spend the most time cleaning Torrey Pine needles from the track and managing all the plants. A friend shot a short YouTube video when he brought his nephew to operate the trains. Search for “Mister Yates Train Yard” on YouTube.

SP: How does your wife feel about the trains?
VY: She is the reason my interest in model trains was rekindled. She wanted a train to run around our Christmas tree about 25 years ago. Over the years the Christmas Trains grew bigger and finally we moved outside. She also encouraged me to build the train layout in the courtyard It’s all her fault!



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