An eye for detail . . . Norm Mitchell and his model train layout.
An eye for detail . . . Norm Mitchell and his model train layout.

Serious model trains

By CRAIG McTEAR

EVERY Tuesday without fail you'll find them tinkering in Norm Mitchell's back shed at Sapphire.

They proudly call themselves The Geriatrics, a group of retired mates united in their love of model trains and a good laugh.

They say what they do is not only a great hobby, but also terrific therapy, considering some of them have health problems ranging from diabetes and glaucoma to asthma and heart conditions.

Norm Mitchell, 78, is a retired engineer who is passing on his many years of knowledge and experience to his band of eager proteges.

The Geriatrics came together to rally around Norm following a car accident which left him badly injured back in 1998.

Since that time they've helped him put together an impressive model train layout, and they also use Norm's workshop to make bits and pieces for their own collections.

"Norm has been a godsend to us," Reg Brian, 71, from Sawtell, said.

"I really enjoy the camaraderie of the little group we've got, and the knowledge from Norm."

Norm started out as a motorcycle mechanic and a speedway rider, but then went on to be general manager of the Institute of Automative Mechanical Engineers.

He pioneered, established and managed corporate fleet management in Australia, and by 1985, he was in charge of 17,500 cars and trucks, 85 staff and offices in every State.

When he and his wife, Norma, retired to Sapphire, Norm jumped into model train making, including bigger versions for theme park rides.

He even had one in operation on his property.

"I'm one of the old timers that learnt this trade (fitting and machining) the old way," Norm said.

"Now that everything is computerised, I'm one of the few left who can make things out of nothing.

"What I'm trying to do is pass on this knowledge."



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