For a six-year-old boy in 1950, says Sam Posey, the world was divided into two main categories: fort guys and train guys. Posey grew up as a train guy, a disciple of Lionel. And though he soon grew beyond boyhood, he found that being a train guy never left him.

Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale is part biography, part historical exploration and part homage to train guys. Written by Grand Prix driver and sports journalist Posey, the book is a ride through the life of a man, a trip taken by miniature train. Posey begins with memories of childhood hours idled away with his Lionel electric train set. Forgotten during adolescence as such things often are the memories return when Posey gives a train to his own son. Like a locomotive gathering speed, the gift grows from a simple layout to a 16-year juggernaut of modeling, building, painting and purchasing. By the end, Posey has created a 12- by 60-foot layout in his basement, with mountains soaring to the ceiling and trains disappearing around twists and curves of miniature track. The train guy in his past is alive and well.

What fueled this passionate journey? And what fuels the journey of thousands of others drawn to the magic of miniature locomotives? Posey himself is curious to know, so he takes fascinating excursions throughout the book, exploring the history of railroads, big and little, and meeting a cast of characters that only real life can produce. As the book chronicles this shared obsession, it becomes more than a profile of a hobby; it becomes an examination of a changing America and the loss of part of its past.

Posey has a knack for allowing the human side of his story to shine through. His writing contains poignancy and beauty that raises a simple pastime to an evocative expression of the human spirit. Whether you've ever found fascination in trains, or the inner sparks that make us human, Playing with Trains is a journey worth taking. Howard Shirley admits to being a fort guy though he also likes trains.

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