Local hockey official shares love of model trains

Maybe it's the noise. The roar of a crowd and the chug of an engine.

Ballwin's Ed Martz Jr. has spent a half-century working as on off-ice officlal for the NHL in St. Louis, both at the St. Louis Arena and now at the Scottrade Center.

But during the holiday season, Martz also brings out his lifelong love of model trains. He owns 33, all of which can be seen running on the tracks in his basement.

His job with the National Hockey League runs the game-night gamut from working in the penalty box to being a goal judge. His work dates back to when there was no plexiglass around the rink at the Arena. Instead, chicken wire protected the spectators and the goal judges; "I lean in close (to follow the puck), and that chicken wire would give up to a foot, so sometimes I'd get hit right in the (face)."

The 81-year-od Martz plays corkball, he bowls, and he's a Hall of Fame softball coach, but his trains are his real passion. "I got my first train when I was a month old. My dad paid eight dollars, and worked overtime to get it." That train still runs in his basement, along with 32 others, on a track design that takes four-and-a-half months to assemble. The holiday-themed display features twenty carnival rides, roller coasters, towns, and of course, a miniature hockey rink complete with players.

Martz designs a new setup each year, and he does it for the enjoyment of sharing it with others. "I never run them for myself. There's always a sad story of a family that makes it all worthwhile." When asked to elaborate about "sad," Martz tells of a man who had lost his job bringing his young children to see the trains run. The man's wife told him, "This is my children's Christmas."

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