From Housatonic TImes: Yankee Stadium and Beyond: A Brookfield Doctor's World of Model Trains
BROOKFIELD—A New York Central Railroad train pushes past Yankee Stadium,
and outside the park anticipation of upcoming postseason play is
palpably felt from fans milling around streets in the Bronx.
train then wraps around the rest of the upper borough, where it
contributes another layer to the cacophony of urban sounds such as
construction work and traffic and another train elevated on a track
Then the nine-car locomotive sets its lamps on the
island of Manhattan, and the world’s most recognizable cityscape towers
above a train full of passengers.
After that, the train turns
northbound, and travels to upstate New York, where country landscapes
flash past the windows. People can be seen hanging out by watering
holes, frolicking about, and one young couple under a tree shares their
first kiss. And from there, it heads along the southern ridgeline of the
Adirondack Mountains toward New England.
But there’s something curious about these scenes and everything that
makes them up—it’s not contemporary but looks to be straight out of the
This is merely the first half of a fantastic American
journey, one designed by a local resident, Dr. Kenneth Pellegrino of
Brookfield Family Medicine, in a single room of his basement. What is
described above is the path of his scale model railroad, an elaborate
setup crafted with MTH Electric Trains. It’s so intricate and functional
that it took him the better part of a decade to complete.
I started planning this when we decided to move into this house in
2002, and it took me a year to plan,” Dr. Pellegrino said of a design
that seems to compress much of the Northeast into a 25-by-15-foot space.
“Then it took me eight years to build, from 2003 to 2011.”
rigging is fantastic on this O-scale (48:1) model layout that features
25 cars and six engines (it includes the Union Pacific and New Haven
lines). Made to scale, there are at least 50 automobiles, and seemingly
all of them, from the Volkswagen Microbus to the classic Ford Crown
Victoria, fit the era. In addition to all of that, there is something
like 200 little people contributing something to the show, ranging from
rock climbing or barbecuing to running across busy city streets.
train cars have advertisements for such things as Monarch Foods and
Puritan Hams. There are tunnels and railroad yards and ponds and delis
and garages and municipal service buildings—even an Elephant Car Wash
and an OK Used Car Dealership. Dr. Pellegrino has a mural of the
Adirondack Mountains that his daughter painted displayed against the
The details are painstaking. Considering that he
assembled this all, probably 300 feet of track and maybe $10,000 worth
of materials, in only eight years, the feat is impressive—especially
because he also works as a general practitioner.
The steam engines emit tiny trails of harmless smoke, and an infrared
sensor ensures that whenever the train crosses a street the red lights
flash and the bells go ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. The jarring
sounds of jackhammering in the Bronx, the friendly voice of a car wash
servant somewhere upstate and the alarming wail of a fire engine in
suburban New England all add to the amalgamation.
“I’ll turn this
on and then (a model house) will start to smoke,” said Dr. Pellegrino,
who controls the figurative/literal bells and whistles by switches he’s
installed underneath the tracks. “I’ll call the kids in and they’ll get
nervous when they see it, and so I’ll say, ‘Gosh, we better call the
He also controls the fire engine that exits the
nearby fire station. When the house goes up in flames (red lights
flicker inside) and a fire company comes to the rescue. In similar
fashion, other homes and buildings have stories to tell.
soon-to-be grandfather toys around with the set, a framed picture of
him above his shoulder shows him playing with a model train as a
teenager back in 1960s Long Island. His enjoyment is a lifelong one, but
even in his previous Brookfield home the layout he set up in the attic
couldn’t nearly compare to this current one.
Its size isn’t the
only notable quality. It’s those human touches that make the layout of
this married father of three so extraordinary. That young couple
smooching under the tree—that’s his son and daughter-in-law. Those
baseball fans outside Yankees Stadium, that’s his family.
something about the overall scenery that pertains to his upbringing,
which took him from Long Island to Syracuse University to Albert
Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx to Brookfield, where he has
raised a family and in 1981 helped found Brookfield Family Medicine.
said injecting pieces of one’s past adds significance to the setting,
and gives it a more human feel. But there are three details that cannot
be overlooked: people, automobiles and trees. The first two he has not
skimped on, but even with about 200 trees on location he still wants to
“To give it realism,” he said, “it can’t just be trains going around.”