From the size of the crowds, and the lack of parking, one could be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of club or restaurant that was opening off Alameda on Feb. 25.
But the hundreds of people who showed up were there for someone entirely different — model trains.
Caboose, the new version of the iconic Caboose Hobbies shop located on South Broadway in Denver, opened the doors of its new home on Feb. 25, to a crowd of eager train enthusiests.
“I’d been going to Caboose Hobbies since 1980,” said Castle Rock resident Dave Rhodus. “It was the absolute best news when I heard it was opening again. I hope it flourishes here.”
Despite the crowds of people who filled the 6,800-square-foot shop on its first day, it was an incredibly personal affair for owner Kevin Ruble. Throughout the grand opening, as he walked the aisles, or helped on the registers, people would come up to him and say “thank you,” over and over again.
“My job is to support this tribe of railroad enthusiasts,” Ruble said. “We’re glad to be a part of Lakewood, and we want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The original Caboose Hobbies was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014 as the World’s Largest Train Store, and was founded in 1938. It had been located on South Broadway since 1981, and was located downtown before. While the store has a customer base of more than 78,000 fans, more and more of those shoppers were ordering online, instead of at the store.
According to information provided by Meghan Ruble, Kevin’s daughter, the shift to online ordering and decreased interest in the hobby are a few of the reasons why owner Duane Miller decided to not renew the lease.
But the size and fervor of the crowd at the “grand reopening” was a clear indication that those who love model trains are passionate about the hobby. At the height, it took about two hours to make it through the line that encircled the entire store.
“I got into trains after riding a train in Durango with my daughter,” said Pete Doty of Littleton. “It’s so exciting to see this business back, with an inventory that rivals the old location. Plus, you get to know people who are interested in this hobby as well.”
The event not only drew in old and new customers, but other railroad organizations, like the Colorado Railroad Museum, the Rocky Mountain Train Show, Intermountain Railway Company, Soundtraxx, and the Denver Trolley.
“We’re thrilled to be here, and working with this store,” said Steve Elkins, with the Denver Trolley.
Kevin understands the passions of rail enthusiasts — he owned a railroad company in Michigan, which he sold in 2012. When he heard about Caboose Hobbies closing, he enlisted Meghan, his son Killian, and other friends and family in the “herculean” task of getting the new location established and stocked up. He already is planning on doubling the inventory in the store, and wants to work with more hobbyist and community groups.
“We’re so fortunate to have our great staff here working with the customers from all over the world we get here,” Kevin said. “Our concentration at Caboose is delighting railroad enthusiasts the world over.”