Todd Gieg brushes the roof of a scratch-made model building. (T. Gieg)

Todd Gieg brushes the roof of a scratch-made model building. (T. Gieg)

The model depicts a street corner at the edge of the busy waterfront of Lynn, Massachusetts. (T. Gieg)

The model depicts a street corner at the edge of the busy waterfront of Lynn, Massachusetts. (T. Gieg)

Mr. Gieg uses historical photos to get details just right. Go back one slide and see if you can find this building in the diorama. (T. Gieg)

Mr. Gieg uses historical photos to get details just right. Go back one slide and see if you can find this building in the diorama. (T. Gieg)

A section of dock is nearly completed. (T. Gieg)

A section of dock is nearly completed. (T. Gieg)

No detail is too small. (T. Gieg)

No detail is too small. (T. Gieg)

The artist includes people and animals in his work. (T. Gieg)

The artist includes people and animals in his work. (T. Gieg)

Bringing a Railroad Town to Life

Posted: December 31, 2018

It looks like you could walk right into this town. But if you tried, you might crush it! The town is a tiny model. Todd Gieg is building it by hand. His version looks just like the town did in 1895!

Soon after Mr. Gieg moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, he bought a basic model railroad kit for his son. He also started reading about the history of his new town. Here’s what he learned: A narrow-gauge railroad once carried freight and passengers through Lynn.

A narrow-gauge railroad has narrower tracks than the ones ordinary trains run on. These narrow tracks were used in areas where money was scarce and few riders were likely to climb aboard—spots such as the Maine woods, the Rocky Mountains, and the Swiss Alps. But the railroad in Lynn was an exception. The railroad carried over seven million passengers a year! Riders were often traveling from Boston to the North Shore to spend time at the seaside.

Mr. Gieg started by building a simple model railroad. But soon he was constructing a scale diorama, or model. He didn’t want to build an imaginary railroad. He wanted to copy the one that had really existed in his city. He calls it “Boston’s forgotten railroad.”

He explores the railroad’s history down to the tiniest detail. He is recreating about 10 miles of train track and every town along it in miniature. He makes pretend ivy crawling up buildings and tufts of grass sprouting under porches. His tiny storefronts, houses, and factories look just like ones that might have existed in 1895. Mr. Gieg’s plans include 10 four-by-four-foot modules. To scale, that covers the entire distance from Boston to Lynn.

Does looking at Mr. Gieg’s detailed work make you want to grab some wood and glue and start a model of your own? That’s exactly what he wants! He hopes he will inspire kids to work with their hands too.