collection began in 1928, when he was five years old. His folks gave him
a new 248 Lionel train set, which he still has and which he says, “still
Neal's extensive model train network is set up in the basement of his Longmont home.
He has a large collection of trains, some of which are valuable collectors items and says that he treasures each and every train car he owns.
His model railroad network runs on three different gauges of tracks - Standard, “O” and “G” gauges, and it is controlled by a complex system of electrical switching devices, which he and his friends have assembled over the years.
Some of the trains included in his collection are:
A Blue Comet, that runs on both standard gauge and “O” gauge tracks.
He has some Ives Trains, "all collector’s items," in standard and “O” gauge.
He has several Marx trains, which he describes as, “cheap, but good trains - they are metal trains that run on "O" gauge tracks, which were the standard in the 20’s.“
A very special train set Neal is particularly proud of is his President’s Special, manufactured by American Flyer. "It is an electric type engine with three cars and only 12 sets were made. It is a replica of a real train. It is a chrome-plated, metal train. It’s very heavy and it runs fine.”
Also part of his collection
is a green
Lionel , standard gauge train set, which is a copy of the Milwaukee
His engines represent three different types of locomotives - steam, electric and diesel.
Neal Miller’s trains are equipped with full sound effects, so when a train pulls into a station you hear authentic sounds of each particular engine. "You press a button on the transformer, when the train stops at a station and you hear the conductor give a Station Stop and ‘All Aboard’ and ‘Watch Your Step,’ instructions for people getting on and off the train - and that’s all a lot of fun.”
There are different whistles for steam, diesel and electric engines. Miller likes the steam whistles best, ”They are pleasant, but the most pleasant sounding whistle ever brought out by a railroad was the Union Pacific Big Boy. It had a steamboat whistle sound.”
Miller holds card number five, as a member of the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, which he joined in the late thirties. The club currently has about 1500 members.
Neal’s hobby also includes
railroad photography. He has been taking photographs of trains and has
given club members a different train photo each year for the past
Neil travels all over the area
to photograph trains. He has photographed: The Great Western Railroad,
The Colorado and Southern, The Burlington, The Union Pacific, The Santa
Fe and the D&RG Narrow Gauge. He has shot both still film and 16mm
in both black and white and color.
His photos have appeared in a number of books and magazines.He sold the rights to his train photo collection, which is all in black and white, to a friend in Denver, who uses them to illustrate railroad books, he publishes.
Robert Darwin, a California author, published a 400-page hard cover book in April 1988, History of the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne: A Pictorial Odyssey to the Mecca of Steam, which contains 94 - 11 x 14 photos taken by Neal. It is currently available from Amazon.com - used, from $464.28.
Miller said about 400 people a year - mostly parents and children - visit him to see his trains. When youngsters visit, Neal said, he always gives them a, “no good engine to hold - which keeps them from touching his collection."
Sometimes, real railroad people,
including engineers, also come to see his collection. And Neal says,
“They are fun to show the collection to. They want to see a lot
A real life railroad experience for Neal was when he once got permission to ride the Denver and Rio Grande Western on the Yampa Valley Rail - from Denver to the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel - in the cab, and he took pictures along the way.
He also used to ride the Zephyr
from Longmont to Cheyenne and back. He rode it once when it was half
hour late coming out of Cheyenne. “It was a regular diesel and
that thing would move. When we reached just south of Cheyenne, where
the track started to straighten out, we went through Wellington and
the engineer blew the whistle at the crossing there - we were going
well over 100mph - to make up time. Once in a while you could hear rocks
hitting the bottom of the train, because the train was going so fast.
It arrived in Longmont, only 10 minutes late. He was moving fast! We
had a cloud of dust swirling behind the Zephyr that normally didn’t
swirl like that. That was more fun. Compared to the Zephyr, the rest
of the trains are just trains.”
Neal enjoys showing off his
classic collection of model trains and gets a kick out running the different
engines and explaining what they are and how they operate - as he runs
them through miniature tunnels, over bridges and around curves, blows
their whistles, and brings them into the station, where you hear, “All