Shoptalk: Mr. Muffin’s Trains
A model-train shop with a famous customer pulls into a small Hamilton County town.
The steam of locomotives now swirls in the sleepy streets of Atlanta with the arrival of a classic holiday-time depot, Mr. Muffin’s Trains. The little store that could, formerly located in Carmel, specializes in the craft of layouts, designs, and accessories for model trains. The shop sells small-scale versions from all eras—but particularly railroading’s pre–World War II heyday—that run on a three-rail track, called Hi-Railers. In other words, owner Steven Nelson and his customers (including David Letterman) are serious collectors, spending hundreds of dollars on a single engine. But it doesn’t cost anything to admire the store’s elaborate setups, complete with that familiar chugga-chugga sound and a curl of smoke, or the 300 diesel and electric steam-engine models that carry price tags up to $2,000 and represent trains that ran all across the United States (see if you can find cars with Hoosier references, like Monon and Speedway). Nelson also custom-builds tiny replicas of buildings to place trackside. A miniature Atlas grocery store, which Letterman’s sister ordered as a Christmas present for the funnyman, makes his Top 10 list.
Mr. Muffin’s Trains
165 E. Main St., Atlanta, 765-292-2022
A Pere Marquette Berkshire #1225, the locomotive that inspired The Polar Express.