The Long Island Rail Road has been marred with track work and delays over the past few months, but trains have been running on time since the 1970s across from the Lynbrook train station at Trainland — where hundreds of model trains and accessories are still on display and available for purchase.
“We sell all-size trains for all-size spaces,” said Kenneth Bianco, 58, who now owns the store at 293 Sunrise Highway.
Bianco inherited the store, along with the original Trainworld in Brooklyn, from his parents, who started the hobby chain in the late 1960s after they realized how expensive model trains could be. “My parents, back in the late ‘60s, they bought me and my brothers a train set for Christmas — a used one,” recalled Bianco, who now lives in Merrick. “Then my father found out it was worth more than he paid, so he said, ‘Don’t play with that one, I’m going to get you another one.’”
Unfortunately for Bianco and his brothers, the next train set that their father bought them also happened to be worth a lot of money. From there, Bianco said, his father was hooked. “My father started collecting the trains, operating the trains, and it kind of got out of control,” he recalled. “It became a huge hobby for him.”
Since then, model trains continue to sell and have even become modernized. Now, model train enthusiasts can purchase cellular phone towers and wind turbines for their sets. The technology itself has also changed, with train sets that can be operated via a cellular phone or a tablet app.
But with the changes in technology came a decline in hobby shops throughout Long Island, according to Bianco. “It’s a dying breed,” he said. “You have to change with the times.”
To do so, Bianco hired his son Ken Bianco Jr. almost seven years ago to build a social media presence for the company. Trainland can now be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Their most popular outlet, however, is YouTube, where they have more than 7,000 subscribers.
“People go to YouTube to see reviews, to see how-tos, they get ideas [and] they see new products,” said Ken Bianco Jr. “So that’s been very successful for us.”
Ken Bianco Jr. attributes the success of Trainland to its strong social media presence, and it has helped the company attract young train enthusiasts. “Young kids love trains and want to post and talk about and see trains every day,” Bianco said.
The children, Bianco said, like to look at the movement of the trains. “Their eyes will like come out of their heads, they can’t take their eyes off of it,” he added.
One such child was Matthew Avery, 6, of East Rockaway, who went to Trainland with his mother, Danielle Avery, and two sisters Amanda, 8, and Emily, 4, in the middle of the day on Aug. 3 to search for a new train set. “He’s trying to figure out what one he wants, but I think he has them all,” Danielle said, adding that Matthew used to have sheets and a comforter from the popular “Thomas the Tank Engine” books and “Thomas & Friends” TV series.
The store also piqued the attention of Brooklynite Tony Baum, who passed it as he was dropping off his niece at a clinic for physical therapy. “Every time I pass, I’m like, ‘I’m going to stop by some day,’” he said.
On Aug. 3 he did just that to pick up a Thomas the Tank Engine set for his 2-year-old son, Joziah. “I bought him train sets from like Toys R Us,” Baum said. “Nothing quite as elaborate as this, so this is going to be the most elaborate train set he has. But I can see I’m going to upgrade a lot, because there’s so much stuff in here that’s exciting to look at.”
Trainland is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on the weekends.