Arts/Entertainment

Kansas City Portraits: Ted the Train Engineer

Lots of local model train fans think Ted Tschirhart has the best job in town.

Ted Tschirhart is the President of the Kansas City Model Railroad club and heads up an enthusiastic crew of other volunteers who keep the trains on track at Union Station. The layouts occupy 8,000 square feet in the KCP&L Room at the north end of Sprint Festival Plaza. During the holidays, even more train boards are added outside the entrance to KCP&L as part of a winter wonderland that includes a kiddies’ riding train.

Tschirhart has been intrigued with model trains since he was a boy. “Since 1942. I got an American Flyer, the old green one. A passenger set,” he says. “When I was 12, I went to an electrical shop near Hallmark Cards and the man sold me some wire and told me how to get more volts from my transformer, so then I started setting up and running my own trains. By then I had some Lionel trains too. I was one of six [kids], so we had to share the basement. I traded in the Lionel and Flyer at Spotlight (a long-defunct model train shop) for HO.”

HO trains are smaller than American Flyer or Lionel, so they were easier to work into a small space.

Tschirhart is a retired computer engineer and has been helping make the trains go at Union Station since 2006, amassing more than 13,000 volunteer hours in the process.

What makes Tschirhart keep doing trains?

He says, “Mom told me I would grow out of it. I never did.”

Ted Tschirhart, the President of the Kansas City Model Railroad Club. Photo by Roy Inman.