Monday, August 29th, 2011

On Sunday morning we went back to the train museum so I could poke around just a little bit more before we left town. I persuaded B to go with me by promising to buy her an ice cream at the old-timey soda fountain next door, which didn’t pan out so well because it turned out the ice cream shop wasn’t going to open for about two hours. She let me look around the museum anyway.

It was pretty quiet at that early hour, very few people around, but I found a couple of volunteers and asked them how the railroad was run. The conductor on the dinner train, Brett, said that everything was maintained entirely by volunteers and I wanted to know how they did that. I figured that maybe they meant that volunteers ran the dinner train and sold tickets and that they hired professionals to do things like lay track and weld train cars together. No, it turned out they meant just what they said: Volunteers did the whole thing, including laying track. Wow. Just Wow.

“Why don’t we go talk to Bev at the house?” Sue, one of the volunteers, suggested, so that I could find out more about the railroad, and I followed her around the back of the museum to what looked like an ordinary house next door. It turned out to be more of an office / clubhouse / railroad headquarters, and Bev was the woman who ran it all. She was busy with something else when we got there so Sue introduced me to Steve, another volunteer, who was on his way over to the car barn and asked me if I wanted to have a look around the barn with him. The eight-year-old part of me that loves choo-choo trains was jumping up and down at that point squealing “OMYGOD!OMYGOD!OMYGOD!” but the boring, fifty-year-old that walks around in the real world as me just smiled and said, “Sure, that would be great!”

Steve led the way down the tracks toward town, chatting away about trains and such, with B gamely following along. It turned out that Steve was going to spend the day in the barn anyway, so he was happy to spend thirty or forty minutes leading us on a semi-guided tour exploring the streetcars and big interurbans that were sheltered there. It was like finding a big box in the attic filled with the coolest Lionel train set you’ve ever seen. Bliss!

We went back to the clubhouse after we left the barn and I was introduced to Bev, who asked me what I’d like to do. I said I’d like to do just about anything they had for me, said something lame like, “I could sweep floors or whatever,” because I figured a newbie shouldn’t shoot for the moon on the first day.

“Would you like to operate the trains?” she asked.

“Operate?” Did she mean “drive the train?” OMYGOD!OMYGOD!OHMYGOD!

“Well, heck yes!

She said I’d have to ride along as a conductor a couple times to get the idea how they operated, because on busy days one car went out while the another was heading back and they’d worked out a way to keep them from smacking into each other that I’d have to learn. Andy, another one of the volunteers who lays track in his spare time (I’ve seen an example of his work and I am in awe) ran upstairs to get me a white shirt with the railroad’s logo embroidered over the pocket, and that’s how I officially became a big old train nerd. All I need is the hat, now.

Oh, I almost forgot: We were poking around in the car barn and talking with Bev long enough that I could take My Darling B to the old-timey soda fountain for a hot fudge sundae! What’s that called when everything works out for everybody? “Awesome” is pretty close but not the exact word I’m looking for.

glee | 9:28 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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