Owner of Papa Ben’s Train Place maintains store now in its 20th year

Trains used in the layout are all Z scaled, at a scale ratio of 1:220. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Trains used in the layout are all Z scaled, at a scale ratio of 1:220. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

Trains used in the layout are all Z scaled, at a scale ratio of 1:220. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Papa Ben’s Train Place owner Allyn Perlman and his dog, 8-year-old greyhound, Sonoma, can be seen greeting customers. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Near what was known as Union Station area in downtown Houston, club members of the N’Crowd Model Railroad Society created several detailed layouts in Papa Ben’s Train Place. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
There are not many stores left in Houston like Papa Ben’s Train Place.

The store sells a variety of model train paraphernalia, including scenic displays as well as locomotives, cabooses and passenger cars at six scales, from its smallest offering Z scale—1/220 of real size—up to a G scale — 1/22.5 of real size. The store also showcases its own layouts—the land and cityscapes around a track—including ones showing parts of Houston.

The most popular scale at the store, however, is HO, approximately 1/87 the size of the original.

“It’s still our most popular size,” said owner Allyn Pearlman, who has been running the store since 2008 at its location on Bellaire Boulevard. “There is just more variety.”

Old and new customers patronize the store, including those from outside Houston; a customer even ordered from Australia in early September.


The train store’s loyal following was established in 2000 at its first store on South Boulevard, when it was owned by Allyn’s brother, Ben. His grandson called him “Papa Ben,” which inspired the name.

Ben died of a heart attack in 2006, leaving ownership to his wife, who then transferred ownership to Allyn in 2008 with one requirement: to get a cancer screening. Turns out, he did have cancer, though it was detected early enough for removal.

After 12 years, the store is thriving, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced it to close for over a month.

“We’ve been doing OK,” he said. “Actually, business has increased.”

Meanwhile, Allyn and his 8-year-old greyhound, Sonoma, the “Train Dog,” greet customers while following health and safety guidelines.

“We have a very loyal following,” Allyn said. “A lot of people want to see and feel the product instead of ordering online.”

Papa Ben’s Train Place

4007 Bellaire Blvd., Ste. E, Houston

713-523-5600

www.papabens.com

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sun.


By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


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