Many locals may not know about the miniature trains quietly chugging away on the outskirts of Kempsey.
A miniature train model, installed last weekend at the Thompson Health Care nursing home in Frederickton, is one of five models making a massive impact on residents, staff and visitors across NSW.
I can't put a finger on it but it just works
Four years ago, Sydney resident Greig Carroll was enjoying a breezy retirement life - tearing up the green on more than a couple of golf courses and playing assistant to his friend on a hobby train project.
“Mr Thompson, who owns the Thompson Health Care nursing home chains, is also a friend of mine and one day he asked if he could stop by and have a look at the model my friend and I were building at the time,” Greg tells the Argus.
Gobsmacked by the train creation, Mr Thompson asked if Greg and his friend would build one especially for him.
Six months later, the Thompson nursing home at Mittagong was consecrated with its very own miniature train model.
“It took us six months, but it was a complete hit!” Greg laughs.
Then, Mr Thompson ordered three more.
“My friend and I looked at eachother, you know - a little wide-eyed (we were retired and used to playing golf a couple of times a week).”
It's the first time she smiled in six months
Today, Greg and his friend have built five train models for Thompson nursing homes right across NSW, from Frederickton on the Mid North Coast to Bowral in the Southern Highlands. The models are elaborate, detailed, customised to the region and operate a five-minute display by pressing a button.
“What we found is that it doesn't matter whether it's a 12-year-old boy or a 30-year-old man or an 80-year-old woman - everyone seems to like little miniature models.”
“When we installed the Mittagong model, one of the nursing home carers brought out an old lady and sat her in front of it to watch.
“We started it up for her and when it was over the nurse turned to me and said ‘I’ve been looking after this lady for six months and this is the first time she’s smiled.’”
“People say all the time: ‘you cannot believe how much enjoyment the residents and the visitors get out of looking at these models.’ The reason why? I probably can't put a finger on it but it just works.”
With the technology used, Mr Carroll can maintain the train models remotely and track how many times the button is pressed in a day.
“Over the weekend we had 25 button presses per day at one nursing home. Sometimes that gets up to 40.”
Each model is unique and built to reflect a certain theme.
“With the Kempsey model we did a sort of NSW, rural, country theme so there's lots of farms on it, there's a cricket ground, there's a little town which we called Kempsey. And we’ve called the station Kempsey Station too.”
While Greg and his friend have travelled all across NSW for the train projects and have attended international train expos, they’re not about to go global with their model-building passion.
“When we stop building them for Mr Thompson we’ll go back and play golf again,” he laughs.