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Upper Valley model train display delivers message on energy effi - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Upper Valley model train display delivers message on energy efficiency

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WINDSOR, Vt. -

It is a child's paradise, a model train display located in the top floor of LaValley-Middleton Building Supply in West Lebanon that will put the one in your basement to shame. To say its creator is a train guy is a bit of an understatement.

Paul Biebel, who also builds houses, spun off a company called Prudent Living several years ago. Its mission is energy efficiency and the train tracks tell a story he is championing full steam ahead.

"It takes you into the fossil fuel section, into the renewable energy section, and its goal is to bring you on a journey through America," said Biebel.

The engines circle the country's energy supply from oil and coal plants to replicas of the Wilder Dam and the Springfield, New Hampshire, biomass plant. The partnership with a building supply company was a natural fit.

"It’s education based. If we can help consumers understand why they are doing things, then we want to be part of that," said Bob Jackman from LaValley-Middleton Building Supply.

The recently finished cityscape shows the difference in energy consumption in a big city like New York, compared to the more rural region of Vermont. Biebel is working to reduce the consumption numbers one home at a time.

"In the past we always used to worry about how much it was going to cost to build a house. Well, I think that question is shifting. It is how much is it going to cost me to live in my house," said Biebel.

Along the train's journey near the interstate is Prudent Living. A sustainable village of the future where all the construction is net zero, meaning no energy bills.

"The real truth of it all is there is not category in life where you can't figure out how to live a little more prudently," said Biebel.

Biebel got the idea not far from where he grew up in Windsor. It was at the Brownsville General Store. Several years ago Biebel built a train display in an unused space in the back of store mostly for fun. It turned into a big hit.

"You notice some people come right in the door with their little kids and go right to the back. It's talked about all over town. They always buy something when they go out the door," said Amy Yates from the Brownsville General Store.

A boost in business in Brownsville translates into increased knowledge of energy efficiency at LaValley's.

"Parents start looking around and they start looking at our display and they start figuring out that is actually has a message to it," said Biebel. "We can feel like we have a problem that is insurmountable but at the same time, when you bring it down to the individual level, it feels like we can overcome it."

Overcoming the world's energy obstacles with a train set that brings out the kid in all of us.

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