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Working on the railroad
By Alicia Fabbre | Daily Herald Columnist

Fred Krause teaches a class on model railway layout building at his Geneva business, Structures and Trains by Fred.


Mary Beth Nolan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/25/2008 12:17 AM

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When Fred Krause moved into his home in St. Charles, he had his eye on a corner in the basement.

It was big enough to house his trains and a layout to run them on. His late wife often joked that they bought the home for Krause's trains.

Now Krause, who has been involved with model railroading for 30 years, has his own store to share his hobby with others. Structures and Trains by Fred opened in November in downtown Geneva.

The shop, which is dedicated solely to model railroading, is an extension of Krause's Internet business, which he started two years ago.

"It's a great hobby," he said, noting model railroading takes in everything from carpentry skills to engineering. "It presents something for everybody."

Krause's love for trains started as a child with a Lionel New Haven freight train set his father bought him.

Through the years he moved on to different trains in all sizes. Though he no longer has his New Haven Alco Lionel train set, Krause's personal collection of trains includes some 30 engines, more than 300 freight cars and 100 passenger cars. He can "comfortably" run four engines at a time on his layout at home.

In his store, Krause has a stock of more than 2,000 items including beginner train sets, individual train cars and track. He also carries a large selection of scenery items -- such as buildings, people and trees -- to build towns, deserts or mountains for the train layout.

In addition to selling everything needed for model railroading, Krause also offers a free hands-on class to teach the basics of building a layout. Students do everything from building the frame of the layout to building their own plaster mountains for the scenery.

An engineer by trade, Krause, 60, says the layout construction in model railroading is his favorite part of the hobby. He points to the layout as the stage for the train.

"You're going to tell some kind of story," he said, pointing to his students' layout that includes details like a graveyard and mourners at a gravesite. "The train just happens to be the actor."

Though Krause enjoys building layouts, he knows some model railroaders don't -- or don't have the time. So, he custom builds layouts for customers as well. The layout he and his students are building is already sold to a customer.

Krause plans to continue to grow both his Internet and storefront business. Krause, who ships trains around the world, said he opened his Geneva shop with the hopes of introducing his business to more customers in Illinois. He plans to continue to expand his inventory and remain a customer service center where model railroaders can come to for parts, tips and even repairs to their trains.

Fred's Structures and Trains is located at 12 N. Second St. and can be reached by calling (630) 208-9011 or by visiting The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.