$1 million model train set a Texas-sized inheritance

By Krysia LenzoFeaturesFOXBusiness

Steve Sanders of Dallas, Texas, spent $1 million on his model train set. It’s his life’s story—in a way you wouldn’t expect.

The enormous 2,000-square-foot miniature railway is featured on the latest episode of Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby. It airs Monday, Feb. 12, at 9:30 p.m. ET on the Fox Business Network.

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“Whenever he would add something to it, even though I’d seen it a hundred times, he asked, ‘You want to see your inheritance again?’” recalls his daughter Stephanie Sanders.

An oilman and precious metals dealer who also owned a hobby shop, Sanders began assembling his creation with the largest models available: G-scale trains made in Germany. Some of the engines are now valued at more than $5,000.

Sanders envisioned a railway with seven train loops running twelve engines at once. That required extensive electrical wiring to be hidden under the layout. For the layout he hired Robert Reid, an artist who builds museum exhibits and film sets.

“He wanted someone to design the ultimate train layout,” Reid tells Colby in the program.

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Reid’s design retraces Sanders’s own life journey. It starts at Dallas Union Station where Sanders’s childhood love of trains began, moves to summer camp in Colorado, to his favorite vacation spots in New Mexico, then back to the Texas oilfields that made him rich.

“Each little vignette would have to tell an important story,” Reis says.

Thousands of pieces -- figurines, structures and sprawling landscapes -- had to be handcrafted by artists.

In a nod to his tour in Vietnam, Sanders spent $42,000 on a miniature drive-in theater that actually plays the movie The Green Berets. He also spent $80,000 for a Rocky Mountain scene filled with 32-inch trees and a working tram, plus $40,000 for a set of murals that give it the feel of Big Sky country.

“There’s shooting stars and thunder and lightning effects,” says Reid. “We were able to create something that was museum worthy.”

That’s certainly the assessment of Bob LaPrelle, CEO of the Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco, Texas.

“It just blew us away,” he says. “The creativity that went into this layout far exceeds just about anything.”

Sanders’s family had been searching for a home for their strange inheritance since he died in 2013. The Museum of the American Railroad agreed to display Sanders’s train set last year.

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