Collectors Loco For Locomotives

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Ron and Donna Bumann couldn't be happier about the 400 feet of train track running through the yard of their Payson home.

But when one of their four trains are clanking over those tracks, the spectators and the Bumanns are ecstatic.

"People are really into trains," Donna said. "Everybody stops and looks. In fact, the first week we put out the trains, word spread so fast we had 25 people come by a day."

The Bumanns -- settling into Rim Country after moving from Prescott three months ago -- have assembled the "Whistle Stop," a model-train town complete with miniature people, animals, buildings and automobiles, covering their entire front and side yards.

Donna said the next phase of construction, which is underway, extends the project through the backyard and to the other side of the house.

"We will have tunnels, and one will go under a waterfall," she said.

"The challenge is getting dwarf plants and keeping them to the scale of the G-train."

G-scale trains, ranging from 1/22 to 1/32, originated in southern Germany and are among the largest of the miniature locomotive sets.

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Kellen Stewart (front), Madalyn Sullivan, Amanda Ammann and Chelsea York watch large G-scale locomotives lumber through Ron and Donna Bumann's front yard train depot.

"I wanted something outside the house, something large," Ron said. "I like the large trains and I like being outdoors."

Donna said collectors prize the G-scale's stability, flexibility and robust size; it's one of the few train sets intended for outdoor use.

"When it snows, there is a special attachment that goes on the front of the train," Donna said. "It clears the snow off the track, and it goes all day long to keep the track clear."

Donna created the miniature skyline that rises out of the Bumann's front yard. Ron said the couple's four locomotives -- a passenger train, a mining train, an Old West train and a Swiss village train -- race around miniature buildings handcrafted by his wife.

"I design and paint the houses," Donna said. "We started it five years ago. It was actually my idea to begin with. Instead of landscaping, why not put trains?"

The trains pass two adobe houses -- one terra-cotta red, the other cream-colored with a Model-T parked in front; it races to the right of the yard where livestock grazes next to a red ranch house and barn. From there, the locomotive loops back to a rock house and zips by a cornflower-blue country home. As the engine chugs its way to the front of the yard, it steams past an Old West town and passes over a trestle bridge that spans a dry creek.

Ron said the trains run nearly every weekend, when families stop by to ogle the Bumann's creation.

"People have been excellent about respecting the displays," Ron said.

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A passenger train passing by an Old West town is one of four trains in the Bumann's yard display.

Kellen Stewart, 10, said he admired the trains' synchronicity.

"Some of them are on timers," Stewart said. "I really like the mining train that looks like it's coming from a tunnel in the side of the mountain."

"I think it's really cool how they built it all," added Madalyn Sullivan, 10. "It's really nice for them to let us see it."

Donna declined to share the couple's investment in their hobby, but said train collecting can be economical.

"We do so much of it ourselves," she said. "A lot of people think trains are for guys, but they're not. It's fun and women are particularly good at doing the landscaping."

The Bumanns have started a G-scale train club and feature locomotives at their dealer space in Eagle Mountain on Main Street. When the trains are running, they place yellow signs around their Alpine Village neighborhood, pointing motorists to their locomotive display.

For more information, contact the Bumanns at (982) 472-2352.

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