Engineer railroad lover rebuilds Poughkeepsie’s past – in miniature
As trains pass through the Poughkeepsie Train Station on their way to the next destination, their sonorous chimes echo across the city. For longtime residents of the area, the railroads that border the Hudson River are as integral to the Hudson Valley as the waterway itself.
It was the local locomotive industry that drew David Todd Magill to his model train passion. As a child growing up in Poughkeepsie, Magill first fell in love with trains at the age of 4.
The railroad yard, where freight trains dropped off newsprint for the Poughkeepsie Journal, was just a short walk away from Magill’s grandparents’ house on that same street. During visits there, the railroad crew would let him sit in the train cars.
A model freight train on its way to Maybrook is shown heading into Poughkeepsie in David Todd Magill’s basement display.
“That was the first place I got a ride on a locomotive,” he said.
Around the time of that first ride, he received his first electric train set and began building model trains from kits. He stuck with the hobby throughout high school, often toting home supplies such as plywood and tracks.
A freight train is shown passing under Route 9W in Highland in David Todd Magill’s basement display.
After graduating Poughkeepsie High School in 1991, Magill got a job with the railroad, then known as Conrail, in 1992. It was due largely to his relationships with the staff at the Poughkeepsie Train Station, where he was a frequent visitor.
“When I got out of high school, they made sure I had a job,” he said.
Today, the Selkirk resident works as an engineer for Amtrak and looks forward to celebrating his 27th anniversary as a railroad employee in May. He enjoys his job so much that he incorporates his passion into his downtime as well.
For Magill, building model trains is more than just a hobby. It’s a family bonding experience, an opportunity to de-stress and an extension of the career he enjoys.
“It’s therapeutic,” he said.
Whether he’s jamming out to ’70s tunes while building sets or operating the line with friends, he relishes the tranquil beauty of his model world. Between operating mini trains at home and riding around on them for work, Magill is one happy camper.
“I don’t consider my job that I do work because I love what I do,” he said. “It makes getting up and going to work very easy.”
As a railroader for more than 25 years and a model train enthusiast for the majority of his life, Magill has discovered his personal happiness equation. Yet that does not mean he is content to rest on his laurels — he already has plans to expand his setup.
“I’m planning on doing a second level,” he said.
He hopes to include spots such as Hopewell Junction, Danbury and Clintondale, all of which were significant points on the Maybrook Line. Magill estimates the additions will take him another year or two to complete.
Regardless of how many tweaks he makes, Poughkeepsie and the railroad bridge will remain at the core of it.