On Track in Pinchot Hall

Photo/Story posted April 27, 2017 in Best of CommMedia by Anna Pitingolo.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Hidden in the back corner of East Halls, in the depths of Pinchot Hall, there’s more than just the standard creepy basement. Walk down a couple flights of steps and through some doors, and suddenly you’re in a brightly lit room, with loud noises coming from every direction.

It’s in this room that the Penn State Model Railroad Club lives. On any given Wednesday or Friday night, you can walk into the basement and be greeted by eight to 10 guys working on the layout.

Nick Kunchandy is one of those guys, pushing buttons and twisting knobs, on a layout that fills a 15-by-50 foot room. Kunchandy’s love for trains started when he was a toddler, and his dad brought him to work to see a project he was working on. That project happened to be the Acela Express, the fastest train in North America.

“His company allowed me to go onto the property and check it out and so he brought me to the engineer’s seat and we had one of the test engineers show me the controls,” said Kunchandy, a junior biology major. “And I sat at the controls of the fastest train in North America and actually got to move this thing at three years old and it was the coolest thing that I had done up until that point.”

From that moment on, Kunchandy was hooked to trains. He checked out every book he could find on trains and railroads, and by the time he was eight, Kunchandy had bought his first real model train.

Kunchandy took his love for model railroads to college with him, and joined the Penn State MRRC when he got to the University Park campus at the start of his junior year.

“I went to Penn State Abington for the first two years but as soon as I hit UPark, I immediately went to the involvement fair and went to the table that they had setup for the Model Railroad Club and I was one of the first people to sign up, so I was determined to really be involved in this,” Kunchandy said.

Kunchandy plans to continue his hobby after college, but farther down the line all depends on finding the right spouse who will allow him to dedicate part of their home to a layout.

“I’ve already kind of like said it already that when I move into my future house, provided my future wife lets me, it’s a running joke that it’s up to the spouse or the significant other whether or not you’re allowed to have this thing but I’ve pretty much said it in my mind that I want this as I get older.”