In the October 2000 issue of Classic Toy Trains, photographer William Zuback and I photographed the layout of performer Mandy Patinkin. We spent a few days with him and his family. We were joined by Rich Roman, whose highly successful fit-out construction business, East Coast Companies, was responsible for much of the design and look of Mandy’s layout.
Mandy’s Toy Train Memories
Mandy shares a lot with Frank Sinatra and Neil Young. All strive to provide audiences with memorable performances. Their live performances touch listeners just like the millions of records and CDs they have sold. All three developed an appreciation for model electric trains that lasted through their adult years.
Perhaps the luckiest of all is Mandy. His family was able to afford a Lionel outfit when he was growing up in Chicago in the early 1960s. The fun he had in building a simple layout in his youth never left him. Even during the years he was paying his dues, there was no doubt that he would one day have the Lionel layout of his dreams. The only questions were when he would have time to build it and where his house would be.
The answers came around 2000, when Mandy was starring in Chicago Hope, a medical drama that aired on television in his hometown.
He and his family figured out what the layout should look like and what features each of them wanted to add to it. From their discussions came plans for a sprawling model railway set up in the post-war period. It would have a bustling carnival, a working ski lift, and a bustling rail yard with a functioning turntable. He would also have a rotunda with stalls built into the side of the mountain and a tribute to the company his family started in Chicago – People’s Iron & Metal Co.
It would also have a superb sound system. Trains would be run through command control. Mandy insisted on having the latest and greatest in toy train technology. Since childhood, electricity has fascinated him, especially when applied to the operation of Lionel trains and their accessories.
A perfect collaboration
What Mandy and her family eventually named the Grody & Patinkin Railroad Co. (after his wife, Kathryn Grody) might as well have been named the Patinkin & Roman Railroad Co. The family’s collaboration with Rich and his crew went from strength to strength. turned out to be perfect.
It wasn’t a lack of experience or skill that stopped Mandy from completing the layout. On the contrary, the demands of his career meant that time was always limited. If Mandy had insisted on doing it all, the railroad might have taken 25 years to build and troubleshoot.
Once the builders figured out what Mandy, Kathryn and their sons wanted, they found it easy to build the bench and lay the track. Electronics also progressed relatively smoothly and quickly. Together, Rich and Mandy tested everything, making sure that the post-war and modern-era Lionel locomotives on the list ran as smoothly as ever.
make it build
As good as Rich’s team is with tracks, wiring, and remotes, they’re equally adept at creating sets and structures. The mountains and forests formed an impressive environment for trail work.
The structures have also come together. There were models built from scratch with the names of businesses for each member of the family: Kath’s Books & Café, Gideon’s Groceries and Isaac’s Inn. Everyone had a blast spinning the rides and attractions filling the amusement park. As for the mountain village, it recalls the years when Mandy and his wife lived in Colorado.
Waiting for more
In the 20 years since Mandy Patinkin’s layout was featured in CTT, it has bolstered its list of career highlights. Free time seems to him as rare today as it was then. It’s no wonder the layout, while still wonderfully maintained, hasn’t changed significantly.
We at CTT can continue to hope that new projects await us for the Grody & Patinkin Railroad Co. Maybe Mandy will slow down just enough to sketch or suggest changes. When he does, we hope CTT can make a return visit.