I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

March 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm (Uncategorized)

When I was a youth, my friends and I were avid model railroading fans. We competed among ourselves to build the best layout, and this rivalry could become quite intense. If one pal improved his train table, the others jealously followed suit. The competition usually peaked around Thanksgiving, when the new Lionel Trains catalog came out. Those of us who had accumulated some savings would invest in the latest equipment and accessories, while the less frugal ones had to wait for either Christmas or Hanukkah and hope that their parents would be generous.

This went on for several years until the individual sets became rather elaborate. Mine eventually occupied one entire corner of our basement. Unfortunately, the “J&O Railroad” met its demise while I was in the service, and my Dad decided that he needed the room for something more essential… like storing junk. My reign as a railway magnate seemingly came to an end.

Many years later Maureen and I bought a house in Arizona to be near our grandchildren. I then came up with the brainstorm of building a model railroad layout for my grandson, Giovanni. I had tried that back in New York, but he was younger then and never showed much interest. Now that he had grown somewhat, I was convinced that he was finally ready to appreciate a bigger and better version of “Poppy’s” masterpiece. So off I went to Home Depot in my quest for the lumber and hardware needed to begin my epic project.

When I had completed the framework and the table was safely tucked into a corner of the garage, I decided to incorporate a local theme into the scenery. Now completely motivated and with the creative juices flowing, I began to construct a replica of a nearby mountain as the centerpiece of what I knew would be an award-winning “Gavilan Peak & Anthem Railroad”. The finished product was a magnificent piece of work, if I do say so myself, although Maureen thought it looked a bit cheesy. Ah, she just doesn’t appreciate genuine art. When I was done painting the mountain and laying the track work, I brought Gio out to the garage to have a look. “That’s cool,” he said, and ran inside to play on the computer.

Hmmm, I thought. Maybe he’s still a little young to appreciate true genius.

I went back to work. Knowing he was interested in all things military, I labored for several weeks to construct a highly-detailed army base nestled into the desert. It was without a doubt the Pieta of the model railroading world. Anxious to see the awe on his face, I brought my grandson back again. He glanced at the table then asked with an accusatory glare, “Why didn’t you use a ‘Spiderman’ theme?” Off to the computer.

Encouraged by his unbridled admiration, I dove back into the project with a passion. I put in a railroad depot and a bridge under construction. I began making plans to build a massive mountain tunnel for the crowning touch. Then one afternoon, Gio surprised me by bringing over a friend to see the project. Now we’re making progress, I thought proudly, puffing out my chest. The two boys dashed out into the garage and ran the train once around the tracks. I heard his friend whisper, “This is boring.” They nearly trampled me on their way to the computer.

Now, after hundreds of hours of work and hundreds of dollars in expense, the “Gavilan Peak & Anthem Railroad” sits dormant in my garage, slowly gathering the dust that helps to make it look even more realistic. I’m torn between finishing it or simply turning it into a neo-classical workbench.

A curse on computers! I’ll bet Michelangelo never had to deal with stuff like this.

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