Keeping Track, The Ultimate Train Collection

As with many young boys the allure of trains snagged Harley at an early age.    

Remember the thrill you had when you saw a train?  Many of us dreamed of driving a train or being a conductor.  Harley Layow had a model train as a youngster but as he matured he put his train away.  His love of trains took a back seat to his role as family man, father, biology teacher, and coach.  Once he retired the love of trains could then be fed.

In his Highlands house, Harley built a room specifically for his trains.  Long tables line the walls.  Windows fill the room with light as Harley mans the numerous transformers and switches that control the multitude of trains.  Trap doors allow access to the meandering tracks.

Follow the trains through the villages each depicting a different season of the year.  Look closely to notice that the trains are different gauges – some narrow, others wide.   Some sport steam engines, others diesel.  The multitude of buildings share different architecture like you would see in most towns and cities. Lincoln Logs were used for some of the buildings, others are from Department 56 and other hobbyists.  As the various trains traverse the neighborhoods, pay close attention.  You will notice symbols that are important to Harley’s family.  Look at the football teams on the field and guess what universities his sons attended.  

Over the hills and dales, through the city streets past the gas stations and the 50’s-style diner, look for Highlands landmarks too.  Did you spot Helen’s Barn or T.A. Anderson Goldsmith Jewelers and Community Bible Church?  With more than 50 buildings filling the 16-foot square room, there is much to behold.  Harley loves to share his trains with youngsters of all ages. Their eyes sparkle as the train takes on water or unloads freight. The educator in him calls Harley to share life lessons as he conducts school children through the train system.  When they correctly answer his questions, they are rewarded with a lollipop. 

A man of strong faith, Harley works his faith story into his love of trains. Through the years Harley’s love of trains has been chronicled in several publications.  The Highlander’s Galax News included a special feature called “Weekend at Harleyville” and a hobby-focused publication entitled Classic Toy Trains also published an article in March of 2012.

There are always new and exciting updates being made to Harleyville.  When visits by school children or grandchildren are on the calendar, Harley sets to work to finish his latest update. When not spending time with his wife or working with trains, you may find him flying model airplanes with other Highlanders.  Over the years Harley and his wife have ridden on 20 different trains in the U.S., Canada, and Costa Rica. 

 If you or your children or grandchildren would like to see this train extravaganza, just give Harley a call at (828) 526-3257 between May through November.  Check out his website at  All aboard!