A model train whizzes by as Michael Pokoney handles the controls for the layout, which is inside a 1987 Blue Bird bus. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JOHANNA S. BILLINGS

Old bus becomes locomotive paradise

FRANKLIN The old bus on Michael Pokoney’s property doesn’t run. But, it’s full of motion.

Inside, on a platform near the bus’s ceiling, model trains run in different directions on five separate tracks. These range from a steam locomotive pulling boxcars to a more modern-styled passenger train. Model buildings, rock ledges and even people add detail to the scene.

The train display is a work in progress that began just a year ago when Pokoney’s father gave him the 1987 Blue Bird bus. Pokoney, who is employed as the town of Mount Desert’s only public works person, keeps busy with numerous projects on his property during the summer. The winter is reserved for trains.

“It’s my therapy come wintertime,” said the Franklin resident. “Everything melts away when I come in here.”

The inside of the bus contains three platforms, each at a different level. On the top level, the trains are O scale, which means they run on track that is 1.26 inches wide. On the next level down, Pokoney plans to make a layout for G scale trains, where the track is 1.78 inches wide. He also has a smaller size, known as HO, where the track is 0.65 inches wide.

He plans to run these on tracks situated on the outer edges of the platforms so that their smaller size will create the illusion of a train running in the distance.

The bus, which once served the Acadian Pipes & Drums band, came without passenger seats, though it was not completely empty.

“It’s got the original driver’s seat in it,” Pokoney said. “I turned it so if someone wants to sit and watch the trains, they can.” He also installed a wood stove for heat and added lighting and a security system. Everything, including his home, runs on solar power.

Pokoney said he has loved trains ever since he was a child growing up in New York state. His dad knew someone who worked at the Croton-Harmon Train Station in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

“They got me in the roundhouse and I actually got to operate the locomotives,” he said. “I was hooked ever since.”

Pokoney collected model trains and built layouts for many years. However, because he didn’t have the space to build anything at his current residence until he got the bus, his collection had been packed away for about 14 years.

“It was like Christmas when I started opening them. It still is. I keep finding stuff I don’t remember,” he said. “A lot of this I’ve had for a long time, maybe 30 or 40 years of collecting.”

Pokoney earned the money to buy all the trains, along with buildings, track, and other supplies, by working odd jobs. His wife, Laurie, supports his hobby, and has even made curtains for the bus windows, he said.

He plans to keep the layout design fluid, using indoor/outdoor carpet in dark green and gray under the tracks instead of model ballast, which is made up of tiny pieces designed to look like gravel. The faux ballast must be glued in place, making it difficult to change the layout.

“I’m not going to glue anything down so I can move it around,” he said.

His trains, which date from the 1930s through the present, include many pieces he painted and repaired himself.

“I like working on them and fixing them and making them run again,” he said. “I like them all, old and new. Even if it’s broke and can’t be fixed, I’ll put it up on a shelf.”

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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