Meet Mark Ziven, Model Train Builder

We are fortunate here, at Yavapai Hills, to have so many talented artists covering so many areas. Mark Ziven is such an artist. He has applied his amazing artistic talents to model trains.

Like so many children of his generation, especially boys, their dream toy was an electric train. He relates: “As a 5-year-old in 1947, a Lionel toy train was everything in those early years! The train was my fantasy transportation to take me places, visiting family while traveling to new lands.”

He tells of his journey from his early experiences to the rediscovery of his interests in O-Scale model trains: “I was an average student according to all my report cards my mother saved. After some college, I worked for a large Chicago scrap iron/metal operation. Part of my daily tasks was to “take care” of the conductor of the Milwaukee Road switch engine crew. Take care?  I made sure he and the crew had coffee and donuts while dispatching their fleet of trucks and running the truck scales.

The calendar pages kept turning. The Army, a wonderful wife, two loving daughters and soon the year 2008, retirement was at hand.

2009 found me as a full-time caregiver, Evelyn’s metastatic breast cancer had come back. Now our social calendar was filled with doctors and Oncology treatments. I filled my free time by building a model railroad that had been dormant for 61 years. Evelyn was a great cheerleader from the sidelines, watching with interest as I modeled our lives through this train layout.

Over the months and years, I was able to connect with others in this “O” scale model train hobby. Six of us came together around 2010 becoming the Bradshaw Mountain Hi – Railers, now with special operational layouts on display at the Pine Ridge Marketplace.” This display is open to the public on the first Saturday of each month. Be sure to visit and look for Mark. He is always happy to share his incredible wealth of information.

His home layout is amazing. He has modeled the Milwaukee Road line. He summarizes his objectives as: “This model railroad was going to be state of the art; computer operated. There’s over 200 ft. of main line trackage for passenger and freight operations. A Goose Island switch yard and Union Station represent Chicago, a copper mining quarry operation represent Bisby, Arizona and there’s Westinghouse large transformer plant of Muncie, Indiana.”

When unable to find special cars from manufacturers, he began to apply his artistic talents: “I dove into the world of kit bashing & custom decoration. But first, I got involved with the Milwaukee Road Historical Association. My railroad needed to be period correct, modeling the late 40’s through late 70’s. I wanted to give a “taste” of what operations were like in those years. Special freight cars that serviced Westinghouse, passenger cars hauled along on the Olympian Hiawatha, and a seldom seen branch line “Doodle Bug” went under the knife and airbrush to meet the roads requirements.”

His home model railroad was written up in October 2015 issue of “O” Gauge Railroading Magazine. His gas motor car, the “Doodle Bug,” and his RPO car, and Diorama won first place in the Milwaukee Road Historical Association 2017 annual convention modeling contest.

He went on to build a model of a “transfer caboose” used by the Milwaukee Road from actual archive blueprints. It looks just like it rolled out of the Milwaukee shops in 1956. It’s lit with special LED lamps exposing a perfectly detailed interior, girlie calendars in the bathroom along with the toilet seat left “Up.”

Always friendly and willing to share and help others, he does work for other association members as well as his many train friends here in Arizona.

His vision for the future?  “The years keep coming but I’m not letting the Old Man In!