Utah Man’s ‘Train Room’ A Place Where The Past Comes Roaring Back In Present Day
May 8, 2019, 10:16 PM | Updated: 10:30 pm
SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — At a time when many are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike, it is clear the mighty railroad will always hold a significant place in Utah’s history.
It also will always take up significant space in one man’s basement.
Doug Holt’s ‘train room’ is literally filled to the roof with model trains he has collected over the past 6 decades, making it a special place where the past roars into the present—even if it’s just for minutes out of the day and miniature in scale.
“’How many do you need?’” Holt has been asked. “Well, on the shelf and on the table, I’ve got 125 engines.”
Holt said his collection started humbly in 1952.
“One Christmas, I decided I was going to ask Santa Claus for an electric train,” the 76-year-old recalled. “I’ve got all the catalogs from 1952 on that Lionel put out, and so I know what that train cost, and I was sure glad that Santa Claus was able to bring me that train, because the cost of it for my parents was pretty expensive.”
Relatives added to Holt’s collection every Christmas, until he grew old enough to purchase his own trains and accessories, often at discount from retailers like ZCMI.
“I was in the Army Reserve for 34 years,” Holt said. “When I had some free time, I was able to go and I knew about train stores there.”
Before he knew it, he had acquired trains from East Coast and West Coast alike.
“My wife has said, ‘yeah, you don’t need that many,’ but that’s what I have,” Holt laughed.
Holt said he specifically designed the train room in his house without a furnace vent in order to preserve the life of the trains.
He said he keeps the door closed as often as possible to reduce dust and dirt.
Holt hoped, perhaps, one of his children might take on his collection someday when he is gone.
“Most of it is in like-new condition, and so I would like to pass it on to somebody that would take care of it for the future,” Holt said. “Like I say, that engine that’s 66 years old, it could last—if we last—it could go 166 years if we take care of it.”
Today, when neighbors aren’t coming over to check out the vast collection, Holt’s train room serves to comfort him in retirement.
“That has been my savior in a way—I’ve had a hobby,” Holt said. “If I needed to come down and spend a little time in the winter because it’s snowing like crazy outside, I’ve got that that I can fall back on.”
It’s a place where he can ‘take a load off’ and ‘let off some steam.’
“I can shut the door and it’s just me and the trains,” Holt said. “We can have a good conversation if we need to, or just have a session of contemplation. It’s been good for me.”