It's a grown man and woman playing with toys and they are as surprised as anyone by their shop's popularity.
"A lot of people I know in the hobby don't know my real name," he said, but his collection is known nonetheless. The Lionel Collectors Club of America chose his shop as a tour stop during this summer's convention in Indianapolis.
An old family joke, Mr. Muffin became Steve Nelson's online persona when he began selling trains on eBay. The name stuck.
"We were so surprised at the number of people who were hungry for a train store," Liz Nelson said, raising her voice above the steady clatter of Lionels Nike Air More Uptempo Asia Hoop Pack
Andrew Harrell lifts his son Preston Harrell in the air to get a better look at a track inside Mr. Muffin Trains on March 22, 2014. Steve and Liz Nelson continue to provide fun and entertainment as they share their love of trains with their community at Mr. Muffin Trains in Carmel, Indiana.(Photo: Matt Detrich/The Star)
Steve Nelson's Carmel hobby shop, Mr. Muffin's Trains, has quietly become one of Indiana's hidden gems. The small shop opened in December 2012 as an experiment, a place where Nelson and his wife, Liz, could share their passion with others.
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"We're nowhere close to break even on this," he said. "It's what we like to do and share with people."
Matt Detrich/The Star
But there they are every Saturday 100 some odd visitors, young and old, captivated by the model locomotives that wind their way through miniature towns, hauling imaginary cargo over scaled down bridges and through tiny tunnels, with no real purpose but to do it all again.
Today, Steve's collection is formidable 360 engines, 1,000 freight cars, 800 passenger cars and scores of miscellaneous pieces. Few who visit Mr. Muffin's are there to shop, so most of their sales originate online or by mail order. Admission is free so the Nelsons work full time jobs, besides Steve, a business professor at Butler University, and Liz, a real estate broker.
The obsession grew, with model trains becoming the top toy for boys by the early 1950s, according to the Nike Uptempo V Premium
Industry Association. The Nelsons grew up around train sets, with Steve selling them as a teen, and Liz playing trains with her brothers, who would try to derail the cars with whatever obstacles they could find.
An engine runs on one of the many train tracks inside Mr. Muffin's Trains on March 22, 2014. Steve and Liz Nelson continue to provide fun and entertainment as they share their love of trains with their community at Mr. Muffin's Trains in Carmel, Indiana. Liz does the scenery elaborate city scapes, complete with tiny people, roads and buildings.
barreling onward and nowhere. "There's a real rebirth it's kind of like that whole mid century modern, everything old is new again."
Carmel train shop preserves once
America's obsession began with a storefront display built by the Lionel Corporation in 1900. The train set was a marketing ploy the moving equivalent of a neon sign, designed to draw people's attention to other products for sale. But customers wanted the trains instead, and an industry was born.
It's mathematics. It's electrical engineering. It's art.
That got dad's attention.
"Everybody says 'why wouldn't you Nike Vapormax Black Out put it behind glass? You need to,'" Liz said. "No we don't. They're meant to be seen and touched."
"She's got this passenger train running at an incredible speed," he recalled of one child. "Her dad says, 'she really likes it.' I said, 'She should. Those are aluminum cars that aren't made any more, about $200 a piece, plus that engine she's flying $2,500 around right now.'"
Steve and Liz Nelson provide fun and entertainment as they share their love of trains with their community at Mr. Muffin Trains in Carmel, Ind. March 26, 2014.
Steve sometimes even lets the younger visitors play conductor.
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