Model railroading becomes a lifelong hobby for financial experts

Model railroading becomes a lifelong hobby for financial experts

Greg Harker poses for a photo at his home with the first locomotive he bought in 1951.

Photos by Carla Clark | For the Republic


Greg Harker poses for a photo at his home with the first locomotive he bought in 1951.

Photos by Carla Clark | For the Republic

By day, Greg Harter has had a knack for numbers. Good at accounting, the Columbus man used this skill to climb the ladder in the corporate world of finance.

Beginning with a 23-year stint in finance roles with Cummins, the local Fortune 150 company, Harter rose to finance director of the engine division. With his strong business acumen, Harter also found success later in his career with subsequent entrepreneurs.

But away from the office, Harter parlayed other skills—electrical, mechanical, and creative skills—into a hobby of model railroading. After stepping away from full-time racing obligations at the age of 58, the Columbus man’s involvement with model trains began to take off.

The evidence can be found in the lower level of the Tipton Lakes home Harter, now 80, shares with his wife Marilyn, where a 6-by-12-foot model train platform that first took shape in 1978 fills the hours of his retirement.

Over the past 44 years, Harter has continued to add new model buildings, train car layouts and backdrops to the HO gauge display in the basement. And for 28 of those years, Harter has shared his love of model railroading with fellow members of the Columbus Area Railroad Club, which he helped found in 1994 and served as treasurer for 23 years.

By the time Harter got his first model train at age 6, a gift from his grandparents, his father had already taken him to see the real, life-sized train engines pull into the station, a fascination that never left. fade in adulthood.

Harter’s first train, a Louis Marx set from the 1940s, was O gauge. It was designed to 1/48 full size, similar to the well-known Lionel model trains of the time. But with smaller-sized, 1/87 scale HO trains, you can pack a lot more into the same size platform, and Harter does just that.

“The more you look, the more you see,” explains Harter, using a laser pointer to direct a visitor’s attention to particular details on his train platform.

One is the Baptist Chapel Car, a model train car that Harter designed and built about 10 years ago. It captures an era of American religious life in the 1890s, before church buildings settled west of the Mississippi River.

Church leaders of the American Baptist Publication Society at the time came up with the idea of ​​offering religious services to people living in large American cities by converting a railroad passenger car into a chapel on wheels, doing services inside, explains Harter.

He created a miniature replica of the actual chapel car, where a minister can be seen preaching to the people who boarded the train. In the adjoining rooms of the carriage, the minister’s wife can be seen cooking breakfast in a pan: two eggs, over easy, with sausage on the side.

On adult characters no taller than 5/8 inch, the eggs look like colons. That detail didn’t escape the attention of judges at the 2016 National Model Railroad Association convention and contest in Indianapolis, who awarded Harter first place in the Scratch Built Passenger Car contest.

More than 30 buildings, including a 1950s-1960s diner with a hot rod parked out front, are part of Harter’s model train platform. One of the storefronts closely resembles his brother-in-law Daryl Maxey’s barbershop in Huntingburg, Indiana, with a miniature barber and customer inside. And a model from Harter’s Hardware, no connection to train builder Harter, also has a place on the platform, made from a kit he bought at a train show.

A replica of Harter’s father’s 1940 Ford is parked at Sonny’s Super Service, where arc welding is used to repair the driver’s front wheel.

Harter’s original train set can be seen pulling down a flap on the newer section, built in 2006. The train track runs from one to the other.

Harter and several of her grandchildren have had fun adding to the set, including a Martian parked on a hill and a “Star Trek” ship crashing into a mountain.

In the early days of his career, with a wife and young family, Harter was lucky if he could get an hour or two a week with his model trains.

Fast forward to today, when Greg and Marilyn Harter joke that he spends “23 hours a day” making model railroads in his retirement years.

However, Harter maintains that his No. 1 hobby is not model railroading, but spending time with his wife, Marilyn, a former Columbus elementary school teacher whom he met 55 years ago when she was in Indiana, on military leave from the US Army Comptroller’s Office in Hawaii. Arranged on a date by a friend who had gotten a new job in Columbus, Greg and Marilyn hit it off and were married six months later.

The Harters are bridge buddies when playing cards against teams of friends and spending time together on the golf course. When they are at home, they enjoy gardening, growing tomatoes, squash, green beans, lettuce, asparagus and Swiss chard, among other vegetables.

David Crisler of Shelbyville met Harter through his involvement with the Columbus Area Railroad Club. Crisler, the current club president and associate professor and department head at Ivy Tech, considers Harter a mentor in model railroading.

But while Harter brings a wealth of knowledge about trains and model building to the club, Crisler said it’s their broader life experiences that fuel stimulating conversations that keep their friendship on track.


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About the Author: Chaz Cutler

My name is Chasity. I love to follow the stock market and financial news!