Jerry’s Town: Billings man constructs lifelike model train town

Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-03 20:18:30-04

BILLINGS – It’s unlike any place you’ve seen in Montana, an entire town constructed by one man.

For the better part of six years, Jerry Tillinger, a 78-year-old Air Force veteran, spent his days in the basement of his Billings home, meticulously constructing his very own small town.

“I was watching TV, and I saw a train layout that really impressed me,” said Tillinger. “The idea was to just build the scenery and then you can run the trains, turns out I enjoyed building the scenery a heck of a lot more than I enjoyed running the trains.”

What started out small has grown to take over Tillinger’s basement. The model town is complete with lights, buildings, inhabitants, even an airport.

“There’s so much detail put in this that I am amazed sometimes when I look at something,” said Tillinger. “I say, ‘Geez, I didn’t know I did that and that looks pretty darn good!’”

It’s not a cheap hobby. When Tillinger first walked into Jim’s Junction, a hobby store on the Billings West End, he was looking to spend $500. He eventually spent 30 times that amount.

“I added [it] up one day and surprisingly it came out to about $15,000,” said Tillinger. “That’s a lot for a retired guy like me so that is Uncle Sam kind of paying for this.”

 The thing that stands out is the attention to detail, and that took time. Tillinger said he began work in 2010.

“The more detail you can put into it, the better it looks and the more impressed people will be when they see it,” said Tillinger.

Up until now, it has been mostly friends and family who have been able to see his creation and Tillinger said he would love to show it off to anyone else who is interested. You can contact him by email at