OPELIKA, Ala. (WBRC) - Craig Mangram had a successful business career, first with Diversified Products in Opelika, then in the insurance business. Neither of which had anything to do with trains but, after retirement, that all changed. Now his train tracks run through four buildings in his back yard and the sound of the train’s whistles come from a collection which is Absolutely Alabama.
“Momma and Daddy gave me a train set one Christmas and I kept it for a good while,” remembers Craig. “It was an American Flyer, one of the old ones. You know Opelika really has a heritage of a lot of trains. I never really spent that much into trains, but I didn’t know I was going to do it until I built this building.”
Because when Craig Mangram did get into trains, he got into it in a big way.
“I tried one and once I got started in then I had to, I continued on. That’s when I introduced myself to some more train shows, eBay, Facebook, yard sales anyway to find, if you see something you can use, go for it,” Craig explained.
Craig’s collection now covers four buildings in his backyard and the trains keep rolling.
“I’ve got 18 tracks. I’ve got 14 O Gauge and four HO Gauge. To me, each one of them has its own identity. I try not to duplicate. I try to make it look different. We’ve got a little circus going on here. Right. Yeah, I added a little circus area here. Like I say, each one when you see them, it’s got its own little utility. Once you put them in it starts teaching you what you have got to do. When they stop, you have got to fix them,” said Mangram.
And reaction from visitors has surprised Craig, “It’s kind of been a lot more than I really anticipated. Once you put it together and they say, ‘Hey, man. You really got something.’ Well, I really didn’t intend it, I just did it cause that’s my thing, I guess,” Craig said with a laugh.
“Lot of this stuff has just about doubled in cost. So, I’m glad I did it when I did it. When I did the fourth one and I saw what it was taking, I said then I was getting a little tired. Now I just sit back and look.”
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