Ogden train store operator marks 50 years in business
OGDEN — Dale Spaulding loves trains.
Maybe it’s because trains are big in and around Ogden and, being in Weber County, he grew up with them. But to tell the truth, he’s not exactly sure what it is that draws him to them.
“They’re just fascinating,” he said. “I’ve often tried to figure that out.”
That fascination led him to launch a business in Ogden focused on model trains in 1971 — the Wonderful World of Trains — and this month he marks 50 years in business. He’s had his ups and downs. Over the years, he’s had to take up to two additional jobs at times to keep things afloat. But he’s made it work and, at 71, he’s still going.
“It’s been fun,” said Spaulding, who lives in Hooper though his store is near the heart of Ogden at 3061 Washington Blvd. Nothing beats seeing the smile of a kid awestruck by all the trains and train stuff in his jam-packed store, decked out with several working train sets.
In fact, his is the only store in Utah with such a focus on model trains, he said, though there are more general hobby stores around the state that also sell train sets and paraphernalia. He also has a train museum — several elaborate train sets and more — in a small building to the rear of the store.
To mark his business’s golden anniversary, as well as his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Ralane, Spaulding is holding a party at his store on Saturday, what he’s dubbing the Big Daddy Show. He married his wife in August 1971. The public is invited and the celebration kicks off at 7 p.m. in the open area behind the shop.
He also sat down with the Standard-Examiner to talk a bit about the past 50 years, trains and more.
Spaulding grew up on his family’s farm in Hooper, which he helped run well into his stint running the train store. His interest in trains started in Hooper, Spaulding said, when he received a wind-up train toy from an uncle.”I enjoyed the heck out of that,” he said.
He eventually got his own train set and, all along, had the real-life trains in and around Ogden to ogle. Getting stopped by a passing train may be a bother for some, but not for Spaulding. “When you’re a train aficionado, that’s not a bad thing,” he said.
Years later, when trying to get a Lionel train set, he got the cold-shoulder from a local hobby store operator who wouldn’t order from the manufacturer for reasons that remain a mystery. Given the popularity at the time of the Lionel brand, Spaulding was spurred into action, into opening his store back in 1971, initially inside his Hooper home. He eventually moved the shop to Ogden, landing at 3061 Washington Blvd. in 1981.
Early on, Spaulding remembers selling up to 400 train sets some years — sales levels he hasn’t since matched — and he remembers the craze, later on, with Thomas the Train toys.
All through the changes and shifts, though, the love of trains has held steady, as well as the love of seeing the spark trains cause in younger generations. “The parents don’t always get it, but the kids sure do,” he said.
The thing with model trains and train sets, Spaulding said, is that you’re the conductor, you’re in charge. “You’re the boss,” he said. “Not many people are the boss these days. But you’re the boss of the railroad.”
Looking to the future, his 15-year-old grandson has expressed interest in taking over the reins of the shop some day. Time will tell if that pans out and meantime, Spaulding tinkers in the shop, selling trains, train set merchandise and more. When a kid comes in, he’ll turn on the train sets and let the magic loose on the youngsters.
“It makes it all worthwhile,” he said.