BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- In his basement, Steve Jenkins controls a railroad empire, so to speak.
Like so many adults, who loved trains as a child, Jenkins has worked long and hard to put together a diligent train collection. The Bloomfield High athletic director was introduced to a train set as a youngster, by his dad, Scott.
"I had an interest in trains when I was a kid," said Jenkins. "We'd get the trains running for Christmas, and it was something my family always enjoyed. I remember how much I liked trains as I watched my father and uncle's collection."
Eight years ago, with his dad's health ailing, Jenkins decided to get the trains out again, so his father could enjoy it, once again. (Scott Jenkins passed away in March, 2014).
"That was important," said Jenkins of his dad's experience, which Scott Jenkins enjoyed very much. "To get those trains up and running was rewarding."
Steve Jenkins' interest in trains was re-ignited, and with it, a local flavor was added to his train collection, which runs in his basement, not far from his daughter's play area.
The Blue Comet, which gained a certain level of popularity in the 'Sopranos' series, runs on the Jenkins track.
"The Blue Comet used to run from Jersey City, to Atlantic City," said Jenkins of the one-time service from the late 1920's, into the 1940's. "Angelo Frannicola (a one-time athletic director at Nutley High) is a big-time train guy. He took me to some train shows and I learned a lot."
Jenkins' train collection is of the 'O' scale. His 'Bloomfield Station' has local renditions of Sceurman's Gas Station, where patrons fuel up and cars are repaired, for Steve Scuerman's family, a local Racoon Lodge, honoring Nutley High's athletic director and Racoon of the Year, Joe Piro, an ice cream store, for his daughters, a hardware store, a bar and grill, the legendary Short Stop Egg and Burger Skillet and the famous Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle, which adorned the Garden State Parkway for many decades. There's even toll booths to enter the Parkway.
And of course, there's the Blue Comet, steaming toward Atlantic City and a second steam/diesel Lionel locomotives, that was famous in the 1940's and 1950's.
The attention to detail is striking, including people waiting for trains, or shopping locally.
Jenkins' daughters, Molly 13, and Sally, 10, also enjoy their dad's work.
"I've been working on it, regularly, for the last five years," said Jenkins.
But of course, as an athletic director, Jenkins wishes his focus was on the athletic fields, for the student-athletes and coaches he supports, at Bloomfield High. But the coronavirus pandemic has made that impossible. He's still hoping the teams can get on the field this spring.
"Believe me, I'd rather be watching those teams play right now," he said, wistfully. "I do enjoy the trains, and working on different ideas. But right now, at this time of year? I'd rather be outside with the Bengals."