This is Carolina: Campground train set gets everyone on board

School crush leads to building of train display at Myrtle Beach campground

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A train display at a popular beach campground has a story that started more than 40 years ago as a kindergarten crush.

At Myrtle Beach's KOA Campground, Michael and Lori Kochanek are putting smiles on many faces with their creative, handmade one-of-a-kind display.

"Everything here we made it. My wife did a lot of the painting, I built them. The electric, everything lights up at night, too," Michael Kochanek said.

The couple said they were kindergarten crushes and began dating when they were 14 years old. They even grew up in the same neighborhood.

The Kochaneks said their passion for trains began early in their marriage.

"We were young, we were first married. There was a store up in (Mansfield) Massachusetts, a country store that had a train go all the way around the top," Michael said.

"I said to my husband I would love that, and right away we went down and he got the train and the tracks, and he started doing the woodworking in the house and it just worked out perfect," Lori said.

Michael and Lori said friends would come over to watch their train run throughout the house. A little over a decade ago, they moved to the Myrtle Beach KOA campground.

The couple built their train display again, but bigger and better this time.

"So people got a kick out of it because the train went down under the ground and back out," Michael said.

"You lost it for a while and then you had it going underneath the stairs so it was everywhere in the front (of the house)," Lori said. "People liked it so much they were coming up and sitting in front of our house with the golf carts, have a few beers there and stay there all night looking at it."

When the KOA campground owner asked them to consider moving it to the front of the campground, they agreed. But it wasn't moved before Hurricane Matthew came in October 2016.

"So this stuff was damaged at my house, it was all busted. The church was the only thing that didn't get a tree to it, so it's become my church," Michael said, laughing.

Now, the display has been moved, and Michael and Lori have added more houses, docks and other village trinkets to the "fishing village" the train travels around.

"What got me doing these little houses was I built her (Michael and Lori's daughter) a dollhouse, and ever since then I've been building these little houses and that's what led to this," Michael said, pointing at the extravagant train display.

Michael is currently building the first house for the village, and he hopes to build more. The husband and wife said they're far from done.

"So we still got a lot to do. We enjoy it, we're having a good time doing it, and like I said everyone that comes here is nice, friendly and it gives us a chance to talk and meet people from all over the world," Michael said.

The couple uses LGBG trains from Germany. They said it's a lot of work keeping up with the track, but they've bought a special car that helps keep the tracks clean and in working order.

The Kochaneks said they're there almost every weekend during the summer for visitors to watch them build and work the train set. Lori likes to answer the questions, and usually has balloons and coloring books with her for the kids.

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