DENNIS TOWNSHIP - Joseph Jones estimates he uses 400 feet of railroad track, on which seven sets of model trains chug and loop around an enormous town he built over the years.
The train sets and display at Flyertown Toy Train Museum and Train Shop represent a lifelong passion for Jones, 76, who moved with his wife, Florence, from Absecon to Dennis Township in the early 1990s to build the museum.
The couple, who are both retired, live next door.
"This was our dream together, to be able to share what Joe had in his collection," said Florence Jones, 70, who is retired from the Egg Harbor Township Municipal Utilities Authority. "This was our retirement plan ... to move these trains where we could enjoy them and the public could enjoy them."
The business, which is open on weekends, involves selling trains and charging admission to the museum off Route 9 in the Clermont section of Dennis Township.
Jones said he based it on big train displays popular in Pennsylvania towns such as Stroudsburg, where model train sets can be their own tourist attractions.
The Joneses run their museum and train shop throughout the year, but there is more to the business than being open two days a week. Maintenance on the trains and tracks can be a lengthy process, especially when they run for hours at a time.
"All the tracks have to be cleaned because they develop residue. It's gunk, we call it. There are track cleaning cars, but the best way to clean them is by hand," he said.
"He's out here every day," his wife said. "It's a big responsibility. It's not just lock the door and walk out. Every day he's out here, repairing, clearing. Now he's got to find out why that train went off the track."
Florence Jones referred to a Christmas train that, several minutes before, had fallen off the track and tumbled into a lighted Shell sign.
"There's always something to do," Joseph Jones said.
The walls in the museum are covered with more than 100 trains from Jones' collection. Many are American Flyer trains, including one Jones got around 1950. He also keeps his first train set on the wall - a Marx train his father bought him when he was 1 year old in 1936.
Their business is by no means a full-time venture.
"I make enough money off this to buy more trains with. You can't live off this," said Jones, who is retired from the William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City International Airport, where he took care of airport lighting.
There are overhead costs and insurance costs. But one move Jones made recently is reducing his electricity costs, he said.
Jones had solar panels installed to power his home and the business. The move shaved nearly $400 a month off his energy bill, he said.
So now, electric trains - which are modeled after railroads that fueled their trains with coal - are being run off the power of the sun.
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