Model train hobby keeps Opelikan active
By Anna-Claire Terry
An old steam train makes a lap around a small city and through the wilderness on a table in Floyd Stewart’s attic.
The 83-year-old Opelika resident built an elaborate city, complete with an Opelika train station, to go along with his model train. The train is housed in the attic of Stewart’s shop, which he built with his own hands last year. Stewart built the room, insulated the walls and laid the floor.
“I do everything by myself,” Stewart said. “I’ve always considered myself a builder.”
Stewart explained he has always had an interest in trains. He has traveled to numerous train shows over the years. The more shows he attended, the more interested he became in trains- specifically older ones.
Stewart said he spends time in his shop with the model train almost every day. Every once in a while, he allows a few people to come up and see the model train circle the table. He uses this area as an escape and a place to find some peace of mind.
“I come up here and sit and turn the radio on wide open. There’s no one up here to say ‘Turn it down!’” Stewart said.
His shop and property are the home to a world of antiques, artifacts and collectible items.
“What do I like about antiques? Well, they’re old like me,” he said with a laugh.
Stewart treasures things even after they are old and what some would consider outdated. He still drives his light blue pick-up truck that he bought new in 1966.
“Seems like after you keep something so long, seems like it becomes part of the family and part of you,” Stewart said. “People can see that truck and say ‘Well there goes Floyd Stewart.’”
Although Stewart has been a collector for all of his life, he was able to focus more on this hobby after retiring from Uniroyal Tire Company in 1993.
He grew up between Tallassee and Reeltown and moved to Opelika to work at Pepperrell Bleachery. From there, he went to Uniroyal, where he worked in maintenance. He and his wife Margaret have been married for 63 years.
According to Stewart, anytime you retire, you need a hobby, sometimes more than one- besides sitting in front of the television and getting old and stiff. He said his hobbies are what keep him young.
“You need to keep moving, keep working,” Stewart said. “ I’ve got to have something to do. I can’t just sit around and get old and unable to get around.”
This is not Stewart’s first go-around with model trains. He was featured in Lake Magazine for his log cabin at Lake Martin that he built with an elevated train track inside that enables the train to travel from room to room.
Stewart said he acquired many of his treasures and train memorabilia from simply driving slowly and looking at the countryside on old back roads.
“I don’t like to run up and down the Interstate,” he said.
That is what it’s all about for Stewart: taking time to enjoy your surroundings.
“Everybody is in a hurry now. Run, run, run. They need to slow down and smell the roses,” he said. “Time is money to everyone.”
Everyone except Stewart.
“I’m in no hurry. The good Lord has blessed me, and I’m very thankful.”