Oklahoma model railroaders take the hobby to the extreme outdoors

An hour before our arrival, Hugh Keen had begun shoveling coal, stoking the fire and building steam pressure in his real, functioning steam locomotive. (KTUL)

Everyone needs a hobby, and some are more involved than others.

A group of men in Green Country with the North Eastern Oklahoma Live Steamers group have taken the model train hobby to a whole new level.

David Salamon has always wanted to have a railroad in his backyard.

He's taken his love for trains to the next level.

When you walk inside Salamon's house, you see a miniature railroad in the process of being built. But that's not the railroad we're here to see - we're here for the private railroad he's envisioned since living in California.

"There are a lot of live steam clubs and private railroads in California," Salamon said. "I had the pleasure of meeting some of those people, riding on their trains, and decided if I ever had my own property, I'd have my own private railroad."

A loop winding around his backyard. Salamon laid all the track himself, putting in hours of hard work while completing everything on a shoestring budget.

"It's rewarding," he said. "You build it and you get to come out and enjoy it. You get to share it with other people. They come out and you get to give friends and family rides."

While he plans to expand his track about 20 minutes away in Sperry, Tom Buttler's locomotive collection continues to grow.

"Those two engines there are $27,000 dollars for the both of them," Buttler said. "I have two over there, they are about $15,000 dollars a piece."

He is working with a bit more than a tight budget. Buttler said his time selling Yellow Page advertising is to blame for his exquisite collection, and it all began with a visit to a friend's house.

"I started out with garden railroad," he said. "The small ones. And then Lowell (his friend), I went to his house and saw his trains and said, 'Man I want the big ones, not the little small stuff.' So I started doing the big stuff, it's been about 15 years or so now."

And in west Tulsa, there's a man who has taken the hobby to the extreme.

An hour before our arrival, Hugh Keen had begun shoveling coal, stoking the fire and building steam pressure in his real, functioning steam locomotive.

Despite all the beautiful trackwork, he's only been in the live steam hobby for a little over three years now.

"I had kind of intentionally stayed away from it knowing it was going to be an involved project," Keen said. "Made the mistake of going to a few meets that had these size railroads and I was hooked at that point."

He loves taking visitors like his daughter and grandson for a ride. Keen still has some work to do, but it's a blast for him, expecially the thought that this could perhaps inspire a future generation of engineers.

"I've been retired for 15 years now, and I'm having just so much fun," he said. "This is a project where it's the journey, that's what it's all about, not getting it done. It's all about the journey."

A journey paved by the handcrafted railroads these men have built right in their own backyards.

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