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Retirees will 'tour' valley by model train
DAVID GRUBBS/Gazette StaffLarry Taylor Jr. of Billings built this train set at Mission Ridge retirement complex.

Grandparents and their grandchildren will soon be running model trains at the Mission Ridge retirement complex on Billings' West End.

The landscaped railroad layout, in the billiards room at Mission Ridge, loosely depicts life along the Yellowstone River valley.

An architectural firm's hand-built model of Mission Ridge occupies a bluff along the river. The sugar-beet factory sits beside a grain elevator and the refinery.

In the background, the Beartooth Highway snakes through the mountains. Two HO-scale trains run on parallel tracks through a tunnel under the mountains.

Larry Taylor Jr., who has lived at Mission Ridge for the last two years and is president of the members association, started building the model train layout in January.

"It just kind of grew like fungus," Taylor said.

He enlisted a half-dozen Mission Ridge residents to help with the project. He paid for the layout, with some help from Mission Ridge. A member of the Yellowstone Valley Model Railway Club chipped in his expertise, and Taylor also got some help from his 9-year-old granddaughter, Kayla.

The kit to build the refinery came in "800 jillion" parts, said Taylor, who eventually scrapped the detailed directions.

"It got to a point where I just freelanced it," Taylor said.

The train town, contains storefronts, houses, a church and a substantial courthouse.

"It's better looking than the courthouse we've got," Taylor said.

While the railroad and the buildings are true to HO scale, Matchbox cars, tractors, farm animals and plastic figures jazz up the layout.

Taylor, who was born in Butte, moved to Billings in 1939 and ran Taylor Distributing. Although model-train layouts always offer something to tinker with, Taylor has already moved on to his next project - piloting a remote-controlled sailboat.

Donna Healy may be reached at 657-1292 or dhealy@billingsgazette.com.

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