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Finding Your Retirement Passion — With Mike Kmeth

One of the things we always talk about with clients is: what do you want to do in your retirement? What makes you happy that you’ll want to spend your time doing? For Mike Kmeth, what makes him happy is trains. 


In episode 47 of the Retire Right podcast, we were  joined by one of our wealth management clients, Mike Kmeth. Mike is the president of the Long Island Garden Railroads Railways Society, which is a club founded in 1991 by a group of people with an interest in both trains and gardening. Mike is the perfect example of someone who has found their retirement passion, and we hope he can serve as inspiration for others to find what they love, so they too can Retire Right! 


Mike’s Lifelong Passion


Mike has always been passionate about trains. After receiving his first train set when he was about four years old, Mike has spent years nurturing his interest in trains and would even watch steam trains on the Long Island railroad with his father. As he explained in the podcast, the excitement of viewing steam trains was what made him fall in love with them, sparking a life-long passion.

To feed his interest, Mike has traveled across the U.S. to view trains and has also built his own garden railway in his backyard, which, when finished, will have about 200 running feet. According to Mike, creating your own train layout can take anywhere from one day (if you buy a kit and lay it on the ground), to even a few years. 

After one of Mike’s wife’s patients heard about his work on his garden railway, they were recommended to join the Long Island Garden Railway Society, and the rest is history!

Some Train Basics


There are four sources of power that model trains can run on: 

  • A wind-up system like a clock

  • Steam

  • A butane fuel boiler engine with a steam engine

  • Battery power with radio controls

Mike himself uses a battery-powered train, which he can just switch on, hit the controller, and send off on its way. He can even whistle, ring the bell, turn on the smoke or lights, or slow the train down with his controls, just like a real train. In fact, Mike also has a sound system that can duplicate the exact sounds of a real train, and you can hear little details like the brakes being applied. Plus, with batteries, the train can run at least an hour and a half to two hours on one charge, and Mike even has a locomotive with a large battery that can go for six hours with about 20 cars on level ground.

According to Mike, a passenger garden railway train car (also known as G size scale trains which represent the passenger cars used from the 20s to 50s) is about 18 inches long and about 4 inches square. However, some of the passenger coaches, and more expensive ones like the Broadway Limited, could be up to two to three feet long.

The Long Island Garden Railway Society


One place where many train enthusiasts can feed their passion is the Long Island Garden Railway Society. The club currently has 95 members, with people from all professions who all have train layouts varying from simple to elaborate. The club meets once a month, and during the warm season (May through October), they meet at member's houses where they have coffee and refreshments, and view or build a train layout. In the colder season (November through March), they meet at the North Shore Yacht Club.

As the president of the club, Mike is the one signing the checks for the club and also conducting the meetings, introducing trips and events, and more. The club additionally has a garden railway that’s been permanently set up at the River Museum of Long Island Riverhead, and they also do a huge indoor module layout at Christmas time at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and Mitchell Field gardens in New York — which regularly garners a positive response from the public. 

The Long Island Garden Railway Society hosts around 10 public events a year, including donating time to a Boy Scout club in Westbury, and to the Bethpage High School to raise money for their PTA. According to Mike, watching children interact with trains is one of his favorite parts of being part of the club.

He says, “I know most of the members enjoy their expressions. We see a train go by and there are some children who are so taken by it, that when it's time to leave, they’re kicking and screaming and they’ll grab a rope...it’s just fun to see how they love the trains.”

There’s nothing better than seeing someone discover their passion!

You can learn more about the Long Island Garden Railway Society on their website at http://www.ligrs.com/, or get in touch with the club contact at tomjudyriz@optonline.net. In August, the club will also be running their trains at the Railroad Museum of Long Island. You can learn more about the event at https://rmli.org/.
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