MOSSY HEAD — When Paul Karczewski was just a little kid, he told his parents he would own his own train and railroad someday.
That dream did come true, even if it's only on a one-eighth scale.
"This is my bucket list," Karczewski said. "If you can dream it, you can do it. With the help of some great people around me, we started this project and it just went 'boom!' "
Karczewki grew up fascinated with trains. His uncle and grandfather worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad — "I've got railroads in my blood," he said. Before moving to Florida, Karczewski was a steel worker in the Keystone State. He still puts his manufacturing skills to good use building his steam train engine and box cars from scratch.
"If I see a train I like, I just make it in my shop," he said. "I love to build things. If I'm not on the railroad, I'm in the shop."
After years of helping other train enthusiasts build their dreams, Karczewski purchased his 5-acre property in Mossy Head in 2012 and started on his own dream project — the Pennsylvania Southern Railroad. Other train enthusiasts joined in to help build the mile-long track in the back yard behind his home. Sheds by the tracks house 12 different trains that belong to fellow train lovers. On most Saturdays, you can find Karczewski and the rest of his engineers working on the railroad. Together they designed the centralized traffic control system, which allows for a handful of trains to go on the tracks at once.
"It's a real railroad, just on a smaller scale," he said. "It's real steel, real coal."
The beauty of the hobby is that it's never done, Karczewski said. In his shop, he's building a small-scale Ferris wheel that will be the center of a small-scale amusement park along the railroad.
Although the railroad is not open to the public, Karczewski said he likes to show off P&S Railroad to other train enthusiasts. When the group goes to train shows — there's one coming up in Pensacola in December — they wear P&S Railroad hats and shirts that read "We Ride Ours."
The P&S Railroad is rare. In fact, Karczewski said there only 12 railroads of his size in Florida. Most who visit for the first time are typically speechless.
"They just shake their heads," he said. "If you have a dream, you just have to go out there and do it."