Small world – Scarborough transit enthusiast creates tiny toy train and bus world as homage to the real thing

If you love something, it’s hard to just ignore it. Even when you’re told you have to – for the good of everyone on the planet. While Reiner Guinasao has joined others in staying home, and away from public transit, he’s missed the sounds and travels so much, he’s created an entirely new – and smaller – world.

It’s the ordinary and relatable things that most people miss now.

Coffee chatter with friends around the lunch table at work.

A night out at the movies.

A real birthday party inside a real, bustling restaurant.

For Scarborough resident, Reiner Guinasao, the thing he longs for during the COVID-19 lock-down is how many people get to all those other things.

Image shows a smiling Reiner Guinasao

Reiner Guinasao and some of his tiny transit collection. (Reiner Guinasao photo)

He misses transit – the movement of the vehicles, flow of people heading in different directions and the familiar noise of society in transition.

“(It’s a) Dream job as a transit employee and serving the community.” – Reiner Guinasao

So while many of us are a bit frozen in place – he hasn’t been to work since March – he’s been able to satisfy a bit of his longing by shrinking the world into a single transit hub where life goes on. He’s spent time – he can’t calculate how many hours – tinkering on a scale-model transit diorama. It’s a three-dimensional model of lifelike working trains and buses.

Image shows two tiny GO trains.

Two of Reiner Guinasao’s GO trains wait for customers, on a desk inside his home. (Reiner Guinasao photo)

There’s a man in a red sweater, holding a briefcase, heading across a street toward a waiting GO train. Nearby, lights come on inside a waiting bus, as transit staff direct vehicles in and out of their platforms and stops.

It’s an already busy place, and his tiny toy replication is gaining a larger following online and through social media.

His original tweet was liked and retweeted by hundreds of people and requests came in to share a virtual tour for rail fans especially young ones stuck at home.

 

Guinasao has a stake in transit. He works in a temporary contract position as a customer service ambassador for the TTC. But it’s more than a nine to five occupation, it’s part of a passion for him.

He sees it as a: “Dream job as a transit employee and serving the community.”

Right now, he’s doing his part to help limit the spread of the virus. But he is also one of the many vulnerable people who have a weakened immune system and are more at risk from COVID-19, he told Metrolinx News.

“I had a kidney transplant in December 2018 and would like to keep this kidney healthy for as long as possible,” he explained.

From afar, he keeps tabs on the measures being taken to keep those who still use transit systems – and staff who make that happen – healthy and safe.

“I’m glad to see all the efforts to make sure transit systems are a clean environment for everyone especially when we return,” Guinasao said.

In the meantime, he has his own transit system – a combination of GO Transit and the TTC – to run.

It all lives safely on a desk in his bedroom.

Some of the models came completed off the shelf while the remainder of his train models needed some work over the past year. Guinasao’s oldest model is a CN freight train set that is about 20 years old, followed by the Bombardier GO Transit bi-level coaches which turn 18 this year.

“I like the different modes of transport and how it is the lifeline for a big city like ours,” he explained. “The CLRV streetcar is my favourite because it was one of the harder vehicles to complete.

“The decals and other tiny details are extremely hard to put on especially with my very shaky hands.”

Image shows a small GO bus.

A diminutive GO bus waits for customers. (Reiner Guinasao photo)

Despite his impressive diorama distraction, Guinasao still misses the sounds of the subway, like the door chimes, propulsion system as well as the automated announcements onboard.

“My favourite part of the GO train is the popular 2nd floor of the Bombardier coaches,” he added.

Living near the future Scarborough Subway extension, Guinasao hasn’t been on transit since his last shift at St. Clair Station on March 22. So his days are spent working on his other world.

“I like to have music playing while I work on my diorama,” he explained. “I usually have my computer blasting tunes. It really depends on my mood.

“Some days I just want to sit back and relax or work on other projects.”

Guinasao lives with his parents and sister. They seem to like the diorama, especially his mom: “She is always my number one fan when it comes to all things transit.”

Until he – and others – can get back to using the real thing, Guinasao will continue to spend some of his lock-down time perfecting his own personal transit corner.

Not that it’s immune to what’s happening in the wider world, and not that he hasn’t taken measures – like those who run real transit services – to make it safe for travel.

On one of the scale-model transit employees, he’s added a tiny face-covering.

Anne Marie Aikins, Senior Manager of Media