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Bitcoin mystery: Satoshi Nakamoto a regular at Pasadena train shop

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After Newsweek outed Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto of Temple City as the alleged creator of virtual currency bitcoin, details of his past have come under intense scrutiny. So add this to the list: Nakamoto is a skilled, passionate model train builder.

Fred Hill, the owner of Original Whistle Stop in Pasadena, said Nakamoto has been a regular since Hill bought the business in 1976.

Nakamoto, a skilled machinist who builds all of his train layouts from scratch, is highly sociable and "a lot of fun," Hill said.

Nakamoto will chat extensively about trains, particularly steam engines. In the shop, he always goes by his adopted first name of Dorian.

"We're his outlet. We have nothing to do with his business." Hill said. "He feels relaxed in the shop."

It has been anything but relaxing for Nakamoto after Newsweek published a story Thursday claiming he was the bitcoin creator, sparking a media frenzy that culminated later that day as reporters pursued him through multiple cities as he rode in a Prius driven by an Associated Press reporter.

As he climbed into an elevator at the downtown AP offices, he told a Los Angeles Times reporter: "I never was involved."

Bitcoin was invented in the late 2000s, but the identity of the founder has remained a mystery. Many believe the creator uses "Satoshi Nakamoto" as a pseudonym.

As the media frenzy played out on Nakamoto's front lawn in Temple City, neighbors expressed shock at the prospect that he could be the creator of the global virtual currency.

As for Hill, the model train store operator said he couldn't imagine the Newsweek story on Nakamoto is true, despite initially acknowledging his role as creator of bitcoin in an earlier interview with The Times.

“I knew he was smart, but I didn’t imagine this,” Hill said, adding that he disagreed with the news magazine's portrayal of Nakamoto.

“He's not a disheveled, spacey individual at all," Hill said. "He's not an eccentric. He's a very intelligent man."

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frank.shyong@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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