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Train store chugs through the times

For almost 30 years, two men have been running a Forest Hills store on Metropolitan Avenue that has provided borough residents with a host of toys, bric-a-brac and model train parts.

Bill Levick and Leo Posner, who opened their World of Trains, Inc. store at 105-18 Metropolitan Ave. in 1977, buy and sell antiques, collectibles, toy trains and other interesting items such as old lamps and remote-control vehicles. Levick said the Forest Hills location, with a sign that reads “Antiques and Hobbies,” sells to both Queens residents and those living outside New York state through a mail-order operation.

“We are a national business,” said Levick, who lives outside of the borough.

The co-owners, however, specialize in the sale and repair of antique trains. Levick said his personal interest in trains led him to open the store, which offers spare parts to assemble everything from a caboose to broken model rail road tracks.

After years of success, however, business, according to Levick, has been a bit slow. The co-owner blamed the drop in sales on a lack of interest in toy trains among the younger generation. He said children today are more occupied with computers, electronics, music and other high-tech industries, leaving model trains literally in the dust.

Throughout the store are examples of the crafts Levick and Posner repair and sell. Along the walls are lines of old lamps, some without shades, while big cardboard boxes with pictures of radio-controlled airplanes sit just inside the entryway. Model train tracks and rail cars can be seen through the glass display case that sits in front of the register.

“We are a dying breed,” Levick said of model train enthusiasts. “Only baby boomers buy this stuff.”

Although some parents still bring in their children to learn about trains and how to repair them, there are not enough new recruits coming in to sustain the hobby for another generation, Levick said. The store sells both antique trains and parts alongside new reproductions of older models to accommodate the interests of young and old.

Nevertheless, the owners of the Forest Hills business pride themselves on operating a well-rounded store that caters to all people interested in antiques and other hobbies. Levick said this variety allows his store to target a larger audience that consistently comes back for specialized parts.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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