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. At age 95 he passed away, leaving me his massive collection of model trains, track, books, scenery, kits, magazines, locomotives, and parts, all dispersed randomly across the five-bedroom house he’d occupied for 55 years. 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 55(!) moving boxes. Still, there was a catch; Dad secured my promise that I would not sell the entire lot to some scheming collector offering ten cents on the dollar in exchange for his prized possessions.

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.  I’ve had to crash-learn a highly technical hobby; painstaking research is required.
  • Things will go wrong at the worst possible moment: For example, while packing a delicate item for shipment to a customer, it breaks apart in my hands.
  • Model railroaders are (mostly) the kindest, gentlest people you will ever meet; I’ve befriended model railroaders all over the world; their stories are surprisingly sentimental and moving; it’s not just about the trains.
  • As my husband pointed out, Model Railroading isn’t just a hobby; it’s a disease.  God help me.
  • Acceptance: By putting my hands inside the gloves of my father’s hobby, I have grown to understand him, and myself, in ways I’d never expected.