Derailed: Saskatoon man able to bid farewell to yard railway

There’s a backyard in Saskatoon’s North Park area that you probably wouldn’t give a second thought to when looking from the outside, but what lies inside the fence is off the rails.

For Brian Couldwell, his backyard is the ultimate sanctuary. While some people gaze at a fire pit while enjoying backyard relaxation, he finds solace in watching and listening to his train set.

The current train he has set up is an electric, but he’s also had a miniature steam engine on his track too.

Couldwell has had lifelong fascination with the Old West.

“It takes me back to my childhood when I loved playing with toy trains my parents bought me,” Couldwell told CTV News.

He started building the track and Western landscape 17 years ago in his backyard on 33rd Street. It’s an ongoing labour of love.

“I see an Old West building so I’ll add one of them or I’ll see a train on eBay that I can’t resist, so I’ll buy it,” he says.

He can offer endless facts about it all too. Whether it’s the rock waterfall he created or foliage, some of which has been part of the scene since the beginning.

“The miniature bonsai trees that everyone said would never survive the winter, well they’re going on 16 & 17 years in the ground. The rocks collected from all over North America. The purple ones from the continental divide, the red ones are from the Painted Dessert at the Grand Canyon.”

There’s even an elaborate wooden truss bridge he made.

It’s tranquil in the yard on most days, but this train has been the backdrop of many parties.

“I’d line up barstools and friends would sit around,” Couldwell said. 

He’s shared his yard too – hosting fundraisers for groups like Telemiracle where children and their parents come to enjoy the train. Couldwell also hosted seniors who share their stories with him which he says is rewarding. 

“Oh, I remember those, the record player or the wood burning stove,” he said. 

He had more plans for this track that won’t be fulfilled because – it’s the end of the line.

“I wanted to add an old coal mine but that isn’t going to happen because I’m selling the house unfortunately and hopefully selling it with the railroad,” he said.

“I’m hoping someone will appreciate it and all the plants and trees can stay and I’ll just build another one at my other house.”

He admits leaving all of it behind is sad.

“Very much so, except I hope that whoever buys will let me visit and bring one of my trains over.”

The house is currently listed for sale. 

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