Railroad Ties That Bind

“Sometimes you catch the wrong train, and it takes you to the right station unexpectedly. Life does have her special surprises sometimes.”

Deodatta V. Shenai-Khatkhate

Over the past three years, I’ve packed most of my father’s model train collection into more than 1,200 boxes, sending over 4,000 items far and wide for others to enjoy. I’ve tucked hand-written thank you notes into nearly every package, imagining my customers as kids on Christmas morning, ripping open their postal presents to find the models they’ve always wanted.

I have received so much more in return: Albert and his godson Scotty sent me a video of the Pennsylvania Railroad “Big Boy” locomotive I sent to their home in Chelsea, Australia, now running smoothly while hauling a line of freight cars across their garage layout; we exchanged cards at Christmas. Many of Dad’s trains shall run in Cape Town one day; Eric and Chris, father and son from Toronto, are working together, modeling late 19th century South African railways in homage to Eric’s grandfather, who left England to fight in the Boer Wars; they send me photos of the stunning landscape (and turn-of-the-century locomotives) from their many trips to visit family and friends. Craig, a Long Island Rail Road modeler, (and proud owner of most my father’s LIRR stock) treated my husband and me to lunch when he and his wife Mary visited us from their home in NY State. Many others stay in touch through my blog and via email.   

Last year I gifted a scale test car kit to Chuck Diljak, a model railroader I met at a regional National Model Railroader Association convention; he is president of the Garden State Division. I sat in on his presentation about adding scale test cars to his home layout; (Yes, model railroad presentations are often extremely—and for non-modelers—painfully obscure, so I’ll spare you the minutia.)  A few weeks later I sent him the kit, requesting that he send me a picture of the built, painted and decorated car. 

A few months later, this photo arrived:

Photo by Chuck Diljak, builder of this model kit.

Chuck knew I’d been “working on Dad’s railroad;” inspired by my story, he did a bit of research about my father and named the test car in his honor, with a Build Date (inscribed on most railway cars) of 12/19, my father’s birth month and year. Li’l Joe now runs on Chuck’s HO scale Wyoming Valley Railroad in New Jersey, which, although not recently updated, you can visit at https://sites.google.com/site/wvrails/.

A couple of years ago, the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society sent a letter to my father concerning his lapsed membership. I contacted the Society to advise them of his passing; they sent condolences, noting that at their next annual meeting, they would read his name and toll a locomotive bell in his honor.

When I started this project, I thought I’d be selling a model railroad collection; turns out it’s never been about the trains…

  3 comments for “Railroad Ties That Bind

  1. April 17, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for the kind words. We think of you and your father often and appreciate the care and consideration that you have given to your fathers collection. The journey is so Much nicer when the stops are punctuated by highlights. Your contacts are highlights for us and many others. Please keep in touch.

    Eric and Chris Edwards

    Sent from my iPhone

    Eric and Chris Edwards Edwards Antique Automobiles International Vintage Electric Auto



    • April 17, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks to you both for making the stops along the way so enjoyable!


  2. Craig
    July 10, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    Hi, Mary.

    I’m a bit late getting back to you on the latest blog. Thank you so much for the mention of Mary and me (grammar?). I started working on some of your Dad’s stuff, but recently have had some back trouble. I plan on resuming your Dad’s quest as soon as I can. I still have everything! Hope you keep writing – you have a great flair for it and it makes me smile every time I read it!! Thanks again for everything – literally – everything!



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