For Mike Gervasi, fixing things comes easily. The semi-retired airplane mechanic takes pride in his role as the go-to person to fix bikes, boats, scooters and lawnmowers in his neighborhood. Having spent 33 years working for Northwest Airlines, Gervasi has always found joy in the behind-the-scenes tasks involved in getting something to work properly and his love of engineering has led to a lifelong hobby. Since he was a young boy, Gervasi loved all aspects of trains, from collecting them to building and painting them. It initially started as a way of bonding with his grandfather, but his fascination with figuring out how to put them together and make them run, led to him continuing the hobby over the years, growing his train village drastically. Years after his grandfather passed, he learned that the trains he played with as a child were payment from one of his grandfather’s tenants, when he couldn’t afford to pay his rent money.
“That tenant owned a train store and fell on hard times and my grandfather accepted the trains as payment,” said Gervasi. “Every weekend I would play with those trains. Now, I consider it a winter hobby since it involves all indoor time.”
The hobby that he got involved with when he was seven years old, now takes up two-thirds of the third floor of his house. While he has been collecting trains nearly his entire life, his most recent train display has taken him 11 years to complete. He starts the journey by purchasing the parts, assembling them, and painting them before the trains come to life on his 186-scale track.
While electric train stores aren’t as common as they were when he was a kid growing up in Philadelphia, he still manages to find vintage parts to add to his collection. When he isn’t busy helping the children in his neighborhood with their broken bikes and toys, or tending to his train display, Gervasi works part-time mending the flight information displays at the airport. During his time working for Northwest, his airplane prowess earned him a spot as one of ten mechanics who were selected to accompany troops in Iraq during the Gulf War. During his seven-week assignment, Gervasi was responsible for taking care of any issues with the plane engines, ensuring the troops got from Ramstein Air Base to Iraq safely.