I mentioned to Son Devin back last October that I used to have model trains as a kid and would love to someday get back into them. So, on December 25th I received a box under the tree. It was an antique Marx model train. That started the adventure.
I called my sister about some boxes in her basement. Sure enough, some of my old American Flyer trains and accessories were jumbled in with other old stuff.
Plans were launched to reinvigorate my old childhood hobby. The basement cement floor was jack hammered out and re-poured. Walls, electric, lighting, a laminate floor and ceilings were installed. Then, a built-in table taking up a considerable part of the room was finished. The workers finished their chores by installing a rewired antique railroad 4-way lamp.
Meanwhile, Wife Patti was getting onboard with the adventure. Antique stores were combed for old railroad signs, posters and pictures to adorn the new man cave.
Me? I went on E-bay and started ordering freight cars. Wife Patti then put me on a leash and a budget. Also, new trains, track and engines began arriving almost daily. The old engines were taken in for repair and maintenance. The dining room was piled high with an assortment of boxes.
I recalled the time in the 1960s when dad arrived home with train prints, given out free when you filled your tank at Cities Services stations. Again, I went on E-bay and found someone selling mint exact prints. I bought them for $13, then took them to Michael’s for framing. Cost me $113 each for a set which only cost me $13. A poster of train history was framed and hung precisely on the wall. Old time pictures, graphics and memorabilia would find space. A 55” wireless TV and surround-sound system was installed. The goal is to mount a small camera on the front of one of the engines and have the output displayed on the TV, as the train makes its way around the large course of trestles, bridges, tunnels, mountains, forests, farms and village.
Of course, all that is downstairs now is the finished basement and a whole lot of boxes, but over the next several months, the shape will take place. The new refrigerator was stocked. The track is now being put in place. I know the dream will take many months and will probably never be finished to my satisfaction.
Son Devin, who started the rebirth of the Holdraker train tradition at first poo-pooed the idea. Now, he too is onboard having put numerous hours into remodeling and dreaming. “You have to get a love seat, preferably with recliners, so we can sit back, relax and watch,” he added.
Son Wade, now occupied with the birth of his new son Grayson William Holdraker, has only stuck his head in for a quick peak. He too plans to help when things begin to come together.
Wife Patti is the driving force. She has allowed me my indulgence and in several cases, even bid and won items for the train room, without telling me. This year she has even given me a “pass” on going to New York City for Broadway with her. She is going, instead, with daughter-in-law, Christy. Last weekend she insisted we go to our first ‘model train show.’
As for the very small grandchildren, they are excited about helping Grandpa with the trains, a sentiment I know will quickly evaporate in this fast-moving push button computer/video world.
Still, I yearn for the old days. Spending countless hours refining a layout, watching the Amtrak and Conrail trains cross paths. The old steam engines of yesteryear live again, puffing smoke, rekindling the sounds of a childhood.
“Please shoot me if you catch me parked at rail crossings waiting for the next train to pass,” I joked with Wife Patti. We approached the crossing as the gates lowered, watching and naming the engine, spotting familiar freight cars as they sped by.