By TONY POTTER, Hibbing Daily Tribune
CHISHOLM, Minn. (AP) -- Those who have ventured into Troy Pendzimas's basement know that neither he nor his basement are ordinary.
It only takes going down a couple of steps before a nearly 6-foot-high wooden framework grabs one's attention.
That platform is just the beginning of what is a three-level, 21-by-12-foot train yard that contains 530 feet of train track, the Hibbing Daily Tribune reported.
Building railroads began as a common hobby between Troy and his father, George Pendzimas, but now it means much more to him.
The project, which is more than three years in the making, began as a request by Troy's daughter for a train set, and now it's what brings them closer.
"It's been such a big part of our lives," he said. "It's helped us connect. It means a lot to me."
Though Troy is starting to see some payoff, he admitted the project has been a lot of work.
"Hours and hours and hours," he said. "It's quite the feat."
Troy has done a remarkable job, said George, adding that a project of this scale requires a lot of steps, details and skills.
"You've got to know math, know electrical, carpentry, a little bit of everything," he said. "A person has got to be a jack of all trades and a master of none to do this project."
The project originated as a small 4-by-8-foot model in a one-bedroom apartment. After Troy moved, he was able to expand the railroad to 9 feet by 9 feet.
"It didn't look right, and I wasn't satisfied," Troy said.
He then decided it was time to call his dad for advice.
George, who has worked as an engineer for the Duluth Depot and had previous experience building model railroads, was living in Mexico at the time but agreed to help.
The two began working together via webcam and the project quickly erupted to its current size.
The duo would spend hours at a time chatting over the Internet with George pitching in concepts and suggestions while Troy proceeded to put the railroad together.
George is now back living in Chisholm, which has helped their progress.
The design of the railroad is N scale and is projected to have a fourth level before it's done, Troy said.
The Pendzimas have named the railroad "Fallen Flags" based on four discontinued railroads, including Spokane Portland Seattle, Chicago Burlington, Great Northern and Northern Pacific.
Everything incorporated into the design is based on the 1920s to 1960s with nothing later than 1965, Troy said.
"We wanted it to look old and rustic," he said. "Before the transition to Burlington Northern Santa Fe."
The scenery will be made out of plaster and foam including cliffs, lakes and waterfalls as well as three train depots and some gag stuff such as an outhouse.
The trains, bridges, depots and tracks are all realistic and prototypical, said Troy. He noted the design is customized.
"It's our own little fantasy world," he said.
The Pendzimas are working with 36 locomotives, but the design has the ability to run up to 120 units. Each locomotive is hand assembled and costs $80 to $250, Troy said.
"They come with hundreds of pieces," he said. "It's very meticulous and a project of its own."
There is a lot of work left to do, he added.
"Years, it'll take years," he said. "It'll never be finished. There will always be changes to the scenery and the rolling stock."
Once the project is ready to run, it'll be operated off of Digitrax, an all-digital system powered by a computer.
His family has been a lot of help, Troy said. His grandmother provided some lumber, and he has gained a lot of knowledge regarding electricity from his grandfather.
Yet, Troy gives his father the most credit.
"I couldn't have done any of this without him," he said. "He's helped me so much."
He added: "It's been pretty fun so far, but it'll be more fun when I can start running it."