Valdosta Daily Times

September 9, 2013

Pastor’s love of trains leads to huge model train collection

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Since his childhood, Ray Yody has been fascinated with trains. This fascination continued and grew as he got older, leading to more than 20 tourist train rides across the country and also a vast collection of model trains.

As his love for trains grew, Yody recalls several times embarrassing his children. “Most people will speed up when they see a train coming, to try to make it across the tracks without waiting. I would always slow down so that I could watch the train pass by. My kids would always say ‘Dad, you’re embarrassing us.’ I have even pulled over on the side of the road to wait for the train to come by if I knew one was coming.”

His fascination with trains began long before that though. Yody recalled, “I had trains when I was a kid. My dad would build my brother and I buildings for our model trains. He was the one that came up with the name Yodyville. I just decided to carry it on.”

He also recalled his love for the model train setups in department stores during Christmas. It was seeing these Christmas setups that inspired him to truly begin building his collection.

Yody’s collection consists of 20 locomotives, over 100 passenger freight cars and more feet of track than even Yody knows.

His collection consists not only of trains and tracks, but also a train yard, several different city scenes and even a coal mine. All made and set up by Yody.

This huge collection takes up the entire master bedroom in his home, and would be larger if he had the space.

“I’m living in the parsonage of my church (Providence United Methodist Church) now. Eventually I will either rent or buy a home here and I will expand if I have the room,” explained Yody.

These cityscapes and their connecting train tracks, which have been proudly named Yodyville, have been collected by Yody over the last 25 years.

“I love working on the trains. It’s like getting into a little world. I will come in here and run the switches or sit back and watch the train run, when it is running.”

Putting together a setup as large as Yody’s is no easy task. Each landscape includes people, cars, business, animals, trees and even sand and gravel. The coal mine, which Yody said is the most difficult part, includes a large mountain that he created and an abundance of trees that he had to put into place individually.

Yody’s collection is unique from others in that it is not time specific. Someone looking at his models will see cars ranging from the early 1900s to today. Yody said of this, “I just put in what I like. I don’t try to stick to a specific time. If I like it, I put it in.”

Due to medical issues, Yody has not been able to spend much time working with his trains in the last few months. He continues to work on the trains every now and then, though they are not running at the time.

Trains are not Yody’s only love. He is also the pastor at Providence United Methodist Church. He has been a pastor for 35 years. After serving in the Navy for four years on the U.S.S. Intrepid and then pursuing a career in pest control,  Yody felt called by the Lord to become a pastor.

 “I didn’t choose to become a pastor. God chose me,” he said. After feeling that call, Yody attended Florida Beacon Bible College and went to Emory for seminary.

Being a pastor, Yody has had to move a lot. He has lived in eight different places while serving the lord, including Georgia and Ohio. As such, Yody’s setups are modular, meaning they can be moved,which has come in handy over the years.

 Depending on the amount of space that he has to work with, Yody will setup his tracks in different ways. Currently, most of the tracks are attached via a bridge in the middle of them, with the train yard being completely separate. In a larger space, all of the tracks can be attached together.

Yody’s model trains are not the only collection he is proud of. He also has a collection of model cars filling a showcase in his living room, a collection of specialty model trains in a lighted showcase and also some Coca-Cola memorabilia he has collected over the years.