Zionsville Train Depot Is a Go-to For Train Enthusiasts
Writer: Seth Johnson
Photographer: Ron Wise
For much of his life, Rick Whitt has been around things on wheels. In the 70s you could find him taking photos of racing events, whether it was IndyCar, midget car or sprint car. More recently, however, his focus has been on model trains.
Now the owner of Zionsville Train Depot, Whitt provides train enthusiasts both near and far with the products and service they need. Located at 5082 West 106th Street in Zionsville, Whitt’s shop was started in January 2014 and specializes in g-scale train sales and repairs. Zionsville Train Depot also has n-scale, ho-scale and o-scale trains in their inventory, offering customers with plenty of train sizes to choose from.
Decades ago, Whitt could be found trackside, taking photos of racecars.
“I used to travel around the country doing different series: IndyCar, sprint racing, midgets, ASA stock cars,” he recalls. As one thing led to the next, he decided to pursue photography more seriously, which led to a camera upgrade.
“Basically, I traded my 35mm camera in for a graphic arts camera,” Whitt says. “It weighed approximately 2,000 pounds and was about 18 feet long. I did work for small printing companies in the northwest area, and I had a few larger clients.”
One client of his happened to be David Watts of Watts Train Shop — a now-defunct train store that was also located in Zionsville on Hunt Club Road.
“I helped him do the negative work for a special boxcar that they had done, the Jack Daniel’s car,” Whitt says. Later on, this relationship would serve Whitt well, as he eventually wound up with a job at Watts Train Shop following his photo days.
“Computers came along, and you didn’t need a 2,000-pound camera anymore,” Whitt says. “So I talked to David and got a job with Watts Train Shop. I did a little computer work for them, as well as shipping and counter work up front with the customers. I worked there for approximately 12 years.”
Following the closing of Watts Train Shop, Whitt decided it was time for him to start his own train store. Zionsville Train Depot was born.
“They [Watts Train Shop] decided to get out of the train business, so I got some of their inventory of what was left over and started Zionsville Train Depot,” Whitt says. “I knew trains pretty well, so we just took off from there.”
In addition to the leftover inventory from Watts Train Shop, Whitt also acquired former Watts employee and well-respected train repairman Ross Buttrum. This has helped with the popularity of Zionsville Train Depot.
“For repairs, everyone knows Ross because he’s been doing it for a while,” Whitt says. With Buttrum on staff, Zionsville Train Depot does business with customers all over the globe.
“We sell product around the world actually,” Whitt says. “We just shipped some transformers to Nagoya in Japan. We get repairs literally from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. From coast to coast, they know Ross.”
Despite their international notoriety, Whitt still likes having Zionsville as the home for his train shop.
“I like Zionsville because it’s kind of small,” Whitt says. “It’s getting bigger now with all the new housing developments, but it still has a small-town atmosphere.”
This small town atmosphere fits his business model quite well, too.
“Trains are more of a family activity, so that sort of fits in this Zionsville area,” he says.
Zionsville Train Depot is located at 5082 West 106th Street in Zionsville or you can visit them online at ZionsvilleTrainDepot.com and give them a call at 317-733-8445.