Two Trains of Thought

Photograph by Cybelle Codish

Detroit architect Rainy Hamilton Jr. likes to design buildings, parks, cities, and railroad lines.

And he’s master of that universe in his basement, where his model railroad occupies 80 percent of the space. “I’ve always had a fascination for model building,” Hamilton says. “I have an ability to see things in 3-D in full scale and miniature scale.”

And when that design work occurs in miniature, he doesn’t have to concern himself with bureaucratic site reviews and city planning boards. He can move mountains at will.

Now, Hamilton has spun his love of model railroading into a full-fledged business. In November, he opened Rainy Day Hobbies on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale. “I think there’s a love of trains in all of us somewhere,” he says.

His shop sells model kits for “anything that moves,” including planes, automobiles, boats, rockets, and trains. Many of the products are ready to run, meaning there’s little assembly required.

As the founding principal architect of Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates, Hamilton now has two full-time jobs. “It’s a challenge,” he says. “You have to make time.” His wife, Evelyn, has been supportive of her husband’s dream, he says, which is necessary considering that he spends his nights and weekends in the shop.

The new venture by no means derails his career; it complements it. “Architecture and model trains are related,” he says. “I’m a big proponent of rapid and mass transportation by rail. A lot of my architect associates are model railroaders. It’s fun, it’s artistic, it’s creative.

“Architects build more than buildings; we build places.”

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