It was about 10:30 at night on Christmas Eve as I took Ella
Fitzgerald's "Wishing you a Swinging Christmas" off and put the
Charlie Brown Christmas CD on in the background when the phone rang at
the model railroad club.
I answered with "CCMRC, Merry Christmas" and was greeted with a slight
chuckle and "man, don't you have anywhere to go ? I figured you would
be there, do you want to come by my parents house, we have a group of
people over and we have a ham and stuff and plenty to drink ? ". It
was Guy, one of the other club members. He was expressing genuine
concern that I was at the model railroad club alone on Christmas Eve.
I thanked him but said I was really happy there and how it's the place
I want to be. Guy didn't understand. He knew I was weird but this was
even weird for me, he stated.
Ok, Guy, let me explain
It was back in the early 60's when I had wished so hard for that Tyco
New Haven passenger set. I knew it must be on it's way since dad had
raised DOWN the train table in the workshop a few weeks earlier
allowing me endless afternoons and evenings of running trains.
It was more of a train table than a layout but it was 6 x 6 with a
double track arrangement. The outside track held to the outside and in
the back left hand corner it disappeared into a home made bead board
tunnel sort of thing that was about 2 feet long. Dad had glued a large
block of bead board ( the white stuff before Dow Styrofoam ) and had
cut the track area out. It was rough, but it served the purpose.
In inside loop followed the outside loop except at the back left hand
corner where it turned in at a 45 and crossed a small bridge in the
area in front of the white bead board block / mountain / cut thing.
The double crossover was in the center of the from edge and the
transformer just sat on the left corner and controlled all tracks.
There was no complex wiring or scenery. The Life-Like green grass matt
was glued to the who inside of the table.
While my brothers no longer held interest in playing with trains, one
brother did still have the bug for building structure kits and there
were many a time we just set up a city scene on the dining room table
so that I could play with my matchbox cars.
As I think back on all of this I'm amazed at just what I learned
BECAUSE of trains. I wasn't more than 6 years old when I was taught
how to light the gas heater in the workshop. I realize it was so my
father would not have to come out in the cold to the workshop to light
it himself, but the trust that my parents had in me and the way they
taught me things like lighting a heater at such a young age dumbfounds
me to this day.
It was Christmas Eve and I had been put to bed by 8 pm so I dozed off
at some point with thought of trains in my head. I had received my 1st
BB gun at 5 so a RED Ryder wasn't what did it for me......it was that
New Haven passenger set. Sure we had one of those old silver hustlers,
a UP switcher, a Santa Fe F unit and a dockside 060. We had a handful
of cars, a few boxes, a cattle car, 2 tank cars a flat and a gon with a
Santa Fe caboose and a bobber caboose. There were a few Varney
passenger kits that were never finished, but we even had 2 NP passenger
cars and the B&O heavyweight RPO that I had picked out at the hobby
shop because of the pretty colors.
The colors had captured me. From my Grandmothers front yard near
Central Ave I could look 12 houses to the north and see the Southern
Belle of KCS. Two houses to the left and I could see the City of New
Orleans and the Panama Limited of the IC and behind their main another
block further I could see the TP ( or MP ) and the Sp daylight as it
mad it's way up the Huey Long Bridge.
For months I has held that wish book in my hands, feeling the slick
color pages full of train sets. Ahhh but that New Haven set, colors and
a road name I had never seen, not too long for the table yet not too
short, and it was LIGHTED !
As I awoke to complete darkness in the middle of the night, my breath
short as I slowly got out of bed in hopes that St. Nick had been there.
I eased into the living room to see the largest pile if wrapped
presents I had ever seen. I had to think, this would take forever if I
didn't think. What size would the box be ? I scanned all of the
presents until I saw what I thought would be just the right size, but
it was under three or four other presents. Making a mental note on just
hoe the presents were stacked, i lifted each one out of the way until
the right box was clear.
As I picked it up I could feel the ridges within the package...yep,
just about the size of a passenger car, this must be it. I tip toed to
the laundry room where my father had a small workbench and took an
Exacto knife and slit the tape that held the wrapping paper in it's
fold on one end. Yep, this was it. I took the package under my arm
and snuck out of the house in my pajamas and make my way to the
workshop. Unlocking the door I opened it as slow as I could so that it
would not make a sound. I slipped into the cold workshop and closed the
door before searching in the dark for the light switch. Once the lights
were on I put my prize down and light the gas heater in hopes of taking
the chill out of the air.
I savored the moment as I gazed upon the package a moment before gently
picking it up and trying to tug gently at the box inside to pull it
from it's wrapping. It seemed like it took hours, but it was finally
free of the wrapping. I open the main box and freed each of the
passenger cars and the engines from their own boxes and set each one
carefully on the outside loop.
Finally, it was together and standing in all it's beauty and glory. As
I pushed the switch on the old green transformer, that familiar 'buzz"
of the electrical magic that took place inside, began. As the train
began to roll on the track, the second wave of absolute pleasure washed
over me. It was here, it was mine, all mine, it had come.
I stayed in the workshop for at least an hour and a half just watching
that train go round and round. It was my own world, my secret world. No
one knew I was there, no one knew the expanse of my imagination as I
watched that train that night but I knew I had to stop and put
everything back in the boxes. After all, I didn't want to disappoint my
parents by having them find out that I had done all this.
So I put each car back in it's box then put all the boxes back in the
correct location in the larger box. It took me a few tries but I was
able to slip the box back into the wrapping paper. I turned off the
transformer and turned off the gas. I turned to make sure everything
looked as it should before turning off the light and easing outside
into the cold once again. I turned and locked the door and quietly
walked back into the house making my way to dads worktable and the
tape. I set the package down and gently re taped the edge of the
package before putting it back under the tree and replacing all the
presents that were on top of it.
It was 5 am and all hell would break loose soon but I just stood there
looking at the tree and the lights and that one screwed up C7 light
that blinked years before lights were made to blink. I cherished the
moment and the peace and contentment that I felt. As I turned to go
back to bed I realized that I missed my train already. I couldn't wait
till I was old enough to stay up all night and play with my trains.
That, Guy, is why I'm here, I "AM" having a Merry Christmas.
- posted 16 years ago