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story.lead_photo.caption Curtis Trippensee points out some of the features of Caleb Rohrbach's remote control monster truck Wednesday at Meadow Ridge Trains & Hobbies in Taos. Trippensee said he loves what he does because he appreciates working for himself and not someone else, he gets to feed his obsession with RC (remote control) vehicles and he gets to meet interesting people. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

Curtis Trippensee walked through his dad's home model train shop 1,000 times, never paying much attention.

The younger Trippensee was busy with his own life, raising a son and working as a machinist in Columbia, a dump truck driver and then a career with Scholastic.

It wasn't until his father died in 2004 that Trippensee started thinking about the business. Like him, his mother wasn't very involved in the home-based business.

"When he passed, we had to make a decision as to what do to," he said.

He decided to learn about model trains to help his mother keep the business open. That decision not only sparked an interest in trains, but changed the course of Trippensee's life.

He parlayed a growing interest in the hobby into full-time self-employment.

Trippensee opened a brick-and-mortar business, Meadow Ridge Trains & Hobbies in Taos. Not only does he sell the popular HO, O and N-scale trains and other accessories for model train enthusiasts, but he sells products for a related hobby that's captivated the younger generation: remote-control vehicles.

Trippensee bought his first hobby-grade RC vehicle in 2005.

"Kids are more into the RC, and older gentlemen are generally into the trains," he said.

A majority of Trippensee's train customers are train collectors, while others have home train layouts that go around settings ranging from realistic cities to mountains to snowy villages.

It's typical to see grandfathers passing down interest in the hobby to their grandchildren, he said.

"They enjoy the grandkids coming over and spending some quality time with the grandkids" by running the trains, he said. "It's just something for grandpa and the kids to do. I hear a lot of that. We get to see a lot of pictures."

In hindsight, Trippensee said it makes sense he went into the model railroading business. He remembers his own father taking him to see trains when he was younger.

In the past couple years, Trippensee has made two expansions to his business. Although he couldn't have known at the time, the timing wasn't good.

First, he bought the RC Race Barn at 5612 Heritage Highway in March 2018.

"We had the tornado last year in 2019, and it got leveled," he said.

He hopes to rebuild next year.

Also, his mother, Betty Trippensee, passed away March 10, 2019.

He took ownership of a second store in July 2019, an RC vehicle store in Salem, Mid Ozark RC Hobbies. Then the pandemic hit.

The pandemic not only has affected business, but it's also affected his ability to get products, many of which come from China.

Still, he's living the life he wants and has no complaints. He has his girlfriend, a pair of Dobermans that befriend his customers and a residence across the street from his business.

In his spare time, he volunteers to help the Taos parks director cut grass, trim and other duties needed to keep the city park beautiful. He's also helping to develop a walking trail.

"I've got it pretty good, doing what I do," he said. "I could probably have a better life, but I'm not going to complain about the life I've got. That's for d--- sure."

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