As a kid, we moved around a lot. This led to some really interesting experiences for a growing boy but I’m going to narrow all of these down into just one story today. This is the story of where my love of trains originated (at least in my memory).
Shortly after my sixth birthday, we packed everything up into a big yellow truck and made the adventurous drive from Portland, Oregon to Hazleton, Iowa. This move was a bit of a transition for our family. We went from big city with everything a city had to offer to a tiny little town in the middle of Amish Country that didn’t even have a grocery store. As of the 2010 census it now has a whopping 823 people that live there. When I was a kid, the town seemed about six to eight blocks long. Watching The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry looks a lot bigger than Hazleton. Ironically, our neighbor was the local Sheriff and his son Matt was my best friend. We also used to go fishing out there, just at a river and not a lake.
What does this all have to do with a train though? Hazleton was a town built on a train line. Well actually, it existed before the train line was built and when the railway finally did come through it missed the town by a mile. This led to the town being moved the mile to be along the railway in 1873. I actually have very few memories of the train in Hazleton though. I remember cornfields, Amish driving by in horse drawn buggies, and a big white house with a basement. This white house was the manse where my dad as the local pastor was allowed to reside. It had a giant yard, a scary (what we thought was haunted) house next door, and a great basement.
One year as fall came along, the basement was suddenly off limits. I don’t really remember thinking too much of it as there were plenty of other places to go find adventures. I do remember dad coming home from someplace with bags in his arms and heading directly to the basement. I also remember the occasional noise of something being built coming from the basement. It sort of reminds me of when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is being refurbished in the movie of the same name. The fall turned into winter which of course meant an incredibly magical Christmas. Think about it, a white Christmas in a small town with horse and buggies. Oh, there was also sledding and snow forts as well but that’s once again another story and I’m doing my best to not be a Ted Mosby.
Christmas came and with it, the unveiling of whatever had been going on in the basement. At the time, I had absolutely no clue what to expect when we were finally allowed to make our way into the depths of the house. My little brother and I made our way down the stairs into the dark and scary basement to discover… a TRAIN! It was a beautiful HO-Scale train that was a four by eight foot oval with a siding. A small town, much like what we lived in, was built around the train. The engine was I believe a Burlington Northern F7A engine with several different cars (including a blue Great Northern boxcar) and a little red Santa Fe caboose. We still have all of them, in varying conditions. I also have gotten newer engines as you see here.
Even though these trains are really quite small, operating them gave quite the feeling of power to a young boy. The engine would race around the track, pulling the cars, and a whole new world came to life. It was a world of possibilities and movement. Anything was possible for the future of the town and also the train. Many hours were spent in the basement with that train. As we moved through the years, the train would be set up again at future house but it never was quite the same as its first home in the basement of the house in Hazleton.
A couple of years ago, I found myself in a position for the first time in my adult life of having room for a train. Of course, the layout of the train no longer existed. The track, train, wiring, and even some of the buildings were still in some boxes at my parents house. These were all brought to my garage and this little railroad began to be rebuilt. I ended up moving a year later and so it was rebuilt… again. While currently it is a track on some plywood with a paper mache hill with some scattered buildings, it has promise for the future of something greater and more beautiful as this world is built into something new and wonderful.
I have some ideas of where it is going and slowly and surely we’ll get it there. As I go through the process, I’ll share it with you here. I’ll also share with you the progress of my other train that is in my backyard as it proceeds as well. I don’t make any claims to being an expert when it comes to trains or model railroading. I do know that I enjoy them though. I also know people who know more than I do that I hope to interview and perhaps get them to contribute to this column with some guest posts as I share my love of trains with you all. Please let me know what you think as we go through this process and what you’d like to see more of!
Lastly, I have also gone on some adventures through the years to see some awesome trains. I’ll be sharing about those as well (big and small) here. I hope you enjoy this. There is a Disney connection with trains now as I discovered later in life that Walt Disney was a huge train fan as well. That’s a story for another day though.