Tag: rolling stock

The Underground

Every now and then I hear it; a low, muted whistle; faint from under the floor boards.  Then, the sound of the hard working shifter, pushing and pulling rolling stock into place behind the locomotive, pulsing impatient steam as it waits to release the brake and hurl itself into the sunrise.  I open the door and pause at the top of my subway stairs.  A rush of warm wind hits me, breezing through my hair as a train passes underneath with a whoosh! followed by the cuchuck, cuchuck, cuchuck, cuchuck of the wheels as they fade into a nearby tunnel.  My Dad is calling to me from my cellar railroad.

Or, am I calling to him?  It’s  been many months since I posted on this blog.  Instead of Selling Dads Trains, I went back to school full-time, which is no easy feat in midlife.   I’m surrounded by 20-somethings whose life experience is very different; they are welcoming, yet I feel like an alien.  I don’t feel old; instead I feel incomprehensible, like the world of civics lessons, rotary-dial phones, 13 TV channels and carburators.   Or, steam locomotives, and fathers who worked as machinists.

These days, when the whistle gets loud enough or when I feel the rumbling underground, I go down the basement stairs, and immerse myself in my father’s world.  The trains carry my memories in boxcars and Pullman coaches; they know  where I came from and who I am.  My hands assemble a locomotive, or test a motor on a multi-meter.  I wonder how a New York Central caboose ended up in a box labeled “Baltimore & Ohio”.  Standing on my station platform,  I realize that I miss myself; a woman who can write a pretty good academic essay but finds resolution and joy in the simplicity of a basement full of railroad mysteries.



I’ve been working on Dad’s railroad…

My Dad was a model railroader for over 70 years; he was also a hoarder.  When he died in 2014 at the age of 95 he left me his collection of model trains, track, books, scenery, kits, magazines, locomotives, and parts, all of which I’d unearthed while cleaning out his house. It took me nearly three years of weekends and vacations to complete the excavation, during which time I organized, photographed and packed his collection into FIFTY-FIVE moving boxes. He told me that I should sell everything, but not in lots, as he feared I’d get ripped off by someone who would pay me ten cents on the dollar.

How do you sell stuff you know nothing about, to experts?  This blog is about my experiences as a reluctant model railroader.

So far, I’ve learned the following:

  • Unless you know what you are selling, you cannot describe it well enough to sound credible.  Painstaking research is required.
  • Things will go wrong at the worst possible moment, like when I’m packing something for shipment to a customer and it breaks apart in my hands.
  • Model railroaders are just about the kindest, gentlest people you will ever meet; I’ve befriended model railroaders all over North America (and elsewhere). Their stories about how they got into the hobby are surprisingly sentimental and moving; it’s not all about the trains.
  • As my husband pointed out, Model Railroading isn’t just a hobby; it’s a disease.  God help me.
  • Biggest Lesson of All: Within those 55 boxes, inside hundreds of freight and passenger kits, brass locomotives, switch machines, transformers, couplers, trucks and decals, I’m discovering things about my father that I never knew or understood.