A Mingo County native who grew up in Parkersburg, Nelson went to West Virginia University where he majored in biology with the intention of going to medical school. It was during a biology lecture that he could strongly feel God's presence and knew he would go into the ministry. He later earned a master's of divinity from Drew University and a doctorate from Boston University.
When he first began attending WVU, his parents gave him a train set because they believed it would be a good way to overcome the stress of college life.
"Dad and I built a layout," he said. "He once drove from Parkersburg to Morgantown to show me an engine he had purchased."
When the neighbor who had his childhood set learned of Nelson's renewed interest in trains, the Lionel was given back to him.
His dad also showed up to make sure the trains were boxed to travel along when it was time for a move.
Through the years, Nelson has enjoyed finding pieces to make the display more elaborate. His wife helped paint the buildings and has plans to place tiny tombstones in a cemetery.
Nelson and wife Patti, a critical care nurse at Thomas Hospital, are the parents of Tom, 32, who lives near Washington, D.C., and Rebekah, 28, of Maine.
They also have one granddaughter, Reese Victoria Nelson, who at 7 months old already loves the trains.
The trains are mesmerizing for all ages and Nelson enjoys sharing them.
Model trains of various sizes wind through mountains, tunnels and bridges and pass buildings along the way. There is an ice cream shop, restaurant, gas station, butcher shop, post office, toy factory, warehouse, a couple of churches and assorted other structures.
Flipping any of the 46 switches can activate lights or motion. A fire engine pulls in and out of the garage at the station. A helicopter flies. A merry-go-round moves. Cattle are loaded on to a train car. A miniature gentleman tips his hat to a lady while a nearby Dalmatian dog lifts his leg near a tree. In the Halloween area, a witch stirs a pot.
There is also a flurry of sound with engines chugging, whistles blowing and music playing.
Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlo...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.