About the time my little brother, Mel, could put his finger tips over the edge of a table and pull himself up for a better look my dad started the freight business from the depot outside his shop, around the basement, through the steps. The open topped fright car delivered a load of soap under the steps for mom to put in the washing machine and came back to the depot, to the utter delight of the little boy peering over the top of the plywood platform.
With a man and two boys for underwriters, the train business grew. The square footage available at the large plywood station in the corner multiplied as the train tracks went up the hill against the shop wall, through a tunnel, stopped for crossings, went down a hill into the switching yard, to the round house.
The Lionel™ engine left the round house under a full head of steam, climbed the slight grade along the drive way wall, rounded a nice curve to the backyard wall, still climbing. She headed straight through the open steps, stopped at the platform by the set tubs to off load mom’s scoop of soap and whistled along the down grade of the track on the next lower step, down, down, down, back to the yard.
I remember helping my mom with of loads of laundry while three guys whooped it up over their trains, which were a major source of entertainment for several years. Then interest waned and the trains were boxed up on the shelf. We kids still whiled away a rainy afternoon having marble races on the downhill track. Two cat eye shooters can race side by side on O gage track!
Eventually all the rolling stock and equipment from the train yard in the basement was long donated to the train museum in Akron, and I thought no more about trains until my uncle was cleaning out his basement and gave me a Lionel™ locomotive he thought he’d borrowed from dad. It had been run hard and put away wet, but I suppose that is the fate of steam train engines, the engineer and fireman’s combined ages not exceeding twenty one years.
I asked my brother Walt, the original engineer, to build a glass box to showcase the old war horse. It was missing the cow catcher, saddest of all, and we had to buy a piece of O gauge track on line. He built a wonderful glass box with walnut trim the glass panels slid into. I could interest none of my children or grandchildren in having the extremely heavy paper weight, so I took it to a nursing home. It went on a ledge in the common room and had an audience of men in wheel chairs reminiscing, when I left.
With thanks to Bill Lisleman, who visited a train yard any engineer could love.