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ORMOND BEACH -- The growing possibility of a recession worries a local toy train company. The inevitable fading away of baby boomers, its key customers, is another unsettling prospect.

But like the little engine that could, Broadway-Limited Imports has put aside those qualms and is chugging ahead with plans for a new $1 million plant at the Airport Business Park.

Broadway, which designs and sells miniature train engines that cost anywhere from $170 to $5,000 apiece, has been leasing an 11,000-square-foot building at 4 Signal Ave. since 2005. Last week, the company submitted plans to the city for construction of its own 13,000-square-foot building within the same park.

"This will give us a bigger warehouse and a better work flow," said Bob Grubba, company president. The new building also will feature a showroom for demonstrating its replicas of modern and vintage locomotives.

Actual manufacturing of the tiny HO-scale and N-scale trains will continue in Korea and China, he said.

"We do the design work here, but the tooling is done almost exclusively in Korea, while the painting is done in China," Grubba said.

The local office, which employs 12, handles research and development, marketing, Internet operations, repair work, product photography and shipping.

Grubba, a former engineer with Lionel Trains, launched the company with two partners in Virginia in 2001, gaining attention in the crowded specialty by introducing tiny trains with high-quality digital sound systems. He bought out his partners in 2004 and moved the company to Ormond Beach, where he and his wife frequently vacationed.

Over the years, Broadway has created models of dozens of steam and diesel engines, equipping them with sound effects based on recordings of actual trains, including the Florida East Coast Railway, CSX, Union Pacific and its namesake, a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train that traveled from New York to Chicago for nearly a century.

Grubba, 44, wonders about the future as he sees older train buffs die off and fewer men in his own age bracket replacing them.

Tony Rotunda, operator of the Roundhouse South model railroad shop in Port Orange, leans toward optimism. He said the hobby is winning youthful recruits, thanks mainly to the children's TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine" and the Warner Brothers film "Polar Express."

"There's still a lot of interest in trains," he said.

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Did You Know?

The Broadway Limited, a luxury passenger train, linked New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Chicago for 93 years until Amtrak discontinued it in 1995.

· Its name had nothing to do with the New York theater district. Instead it referred to the Pennsylvania Railroad's wide right-of-way that contained several sets of tracks.

· Before air travel became commonplace, the train was the quickest way to get from the East Coast to the Chicago hub. The trip took about 15 hours, with speeds approaching 100 mph between stops.

SOURCE: New York Times News Service
 
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