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Sugartree Alley Depot open for fun

January 1, 2013
Morning Journal News

SALEM -Local attorney Fred Naragon received his first train at the age of 5 or 6 and he's still playing engineer to this day, sharing his collection with other kids at heart on New Year's Eve.

"It brings back a lot of memories," he said.

Everybody remembers something they had or still have and they want to show their kids or grandkids.

With help from some friends, the Salem resident assembles a display which is open to the public as a venue for New Year's Eve Salem at the rear of his law office, entered off of Sugartree Alley.

Known as the Sugartree Alley Depot, the model train display includes trains of varying sizes, some on elevated tracks and some which travel over bridges and past an oil rig, water tower, stations, coal processor and baggage claim building, among other accessories.

New this year is a hot air balloon which rises up and down with Santa Claus as the passenger.

"We try to add something every year and rearrange it so it's something different," Naragon said.

The collection of trains includes a 1927 Lionel model which dwarfs the other trains in the display due to its large size, using a standard gauge track over 2 inches wide. Naragon explained that the size had to do with the size of the motor and back then, that was as small as they could make an electric motor.

The display includes a 1937 steam engine and trains from 1947 and 1957 and old metal buildings from the 1920s and 1930s. He said it's easy to see the progression of trains due to the sizes.

Back in the old days, model trains were run by battery hidden in a power house. Switches were hidden behind a building and the wiring was also hidden.

"I'm an engineer. I like stuff like that," he said, adding that the craftsmanship on some of the older pieces is "just incredible."

Besides being a lawyer, Naragon has a degree in chemical engineering and does some patent work. He said he likes the mechanics of model trains. Setting up the display and getting it going is the fun part for him. He gets help from friends Pat Mango and Rich Zepernick, his bandmates from the Sugartree Alley steel drum band Patty Plummer and Jeanne Wilson and people who help him operate the display, Daryl Fink and Jim Null.

"Everybody pitches in," he said.

He was expecting about a hundred people to show up for the display which takes a couple of weeks to set up. The tracks suspended from the ceiling remain in place all year round.

Naragon is a member of the Train Collectors Association and has continued to add to his collection over the years. The association has people who make parts for some of the older trains, which would be hard to come by without an association. He noted that Lionel modeled a lot of the buildings off of real buildings and bridges.

One bridge in his display is a replica of the Hell's Gate Bridge which still spans the East River in New York. One of his working bridges is a replica of a bascule bridge, or a draw bridge. There's a working bascule bridge in Ashtabula which lifts into the air on a regular basis.

The display has plenty for the eye to see, whether it's the trains themselves or the many displays around the tracks, included a band shell and three performers representing the Sugartree Alley steel drum band.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at



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