The Photo Issue: W. Kim Austen
Railroading is a family tradition with this insurance executive, who spends his time on his own HO scale railroad
Friday, March 29, 2013 7:00 AM
Photos by Duane Tinkey
The day job:
President and chief operating officer, Allied Group, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
Three generations of Kim Austen’s family spent their careers with the Union Pacific Railroad, which goes a long way toward explaining his lifelong passion for model railroading.
“Railroading is kind of the family business,” said Austen, whose grandfather, father and one of his brothers worked for the railroad. “So I’m almost the black sheep.”
His railroad is on a much smaller scale – HO scale, to be exact – and mostly fits within a special tunnel-shaped hobby room upstairs in his Ankeny home. There, he displays about 100 of his favorite model locomotives and cars in three large glass display cases. It’s a fraction of the more than 500 cars he’s collected since he was a kid. A special 24-foot-long table in three sections holds an intricately crafted Colorado mountain scene that has been eight years in the making.
“For me, it was something I enjoyed doing with my kids, and now I enjoy doing it with my two granddaughters,” said Austen, who looks for new cars for his collection whenever he travels. With a collection that’s dominated by Union Pacific replicas, he jokes that his wife’s reaction to a new acquisition is, “So, you got another yellow train?” (Actually, she’s very supportive of his hobby, Austen says.)
For his next project, Austen plans to build a replica of the “Field of Dreams” farmstead. His biggest challenge yet – finding HO-scale baseball players dressed in historic uniforms.
See all executives featured in 2013 Photo Issue