|Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm)
and New Boston and Donnels Creek:
The Last Hurrah!Readers know that we have been having Christmas-themed open railroads about the second week of November for 8 years. I usually left the buildings and little people out until Christmas week for any visitors who dropped by during the holiday season. In fact, for years, I left most of my buildings out all winter long. However, a few years ago, I started taking them up in January, to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well in 2014. It snowed soon after the open railroad, and then it snowed again, and then it snowed again. In fact, the snow didn't melt off my buildings until the following March. So in 2015, I took the buildings up soon after the open railroad, and moved a bunch of bird feeders into their places so the railroad wouldn't look so naked. Here's a photo with two of the NorthState bird feeders, the long church and the long log cabin, lit with 12-volt garden lighting. You would hardly know there is usually a bustling town where the log cabin is sitting and a train station where the church is sitting.
A Pending Move - I very seldom get buildings out again before June, so there is no surprise that by warm weather, the bird feeders were still the only buildings on my railroad. But Shelia and I have been talking for a few years about finding a house that had a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor. We've actually looked at a bunch, but we like homes with charm and character, and there were relatively few of those in our area. Then, in May, 2016, we found one we thought would work. We made an offer immediately, but things dragged out so we didn't really get into the new house until June 30. Then there were several weeks of cleaning the new place up, decluttering the old place, and prepping the old house to go on the market. So, needless to say, except for basic maintenance to the yard, such as mowing and weeding, nothing happened on the railroad. In fact, we were hoping to move to the new house in time to set up for our ninth "Train Day." Didn't happen.
At the realtor's recommendation, I kept the bird feeders and track on the railroad, and weeded the ROW at least enough that you could tell what it was supposed to be. However, I did NOT set anything irreplacable back out, like any of my scratch-built, trash-bashed, customized, or hand-painted buildings. Or buildings made by companies that are now out of business. A friend had left some buildings out when he sold his house and railroad, and the buyer insisted on keeping certain structures, which the friend later found were no longer available from the manufacturer, so I learned from his experience. I did not keep trains on the track, but I don't do that except when I'm running, anyway.
Where We're Heading - The new house is only about eight miles from the old one. It has nice features like a wrap-around porch, a huge yard, and a huge garage - large enough for me to set up an indoor Large Scale or O gauge or S gauge railroad if I want to, but that's not happening until we get some other things done. The yard, unfortunately, needs some serious work before I set up a permanent outdoor railroad, due to a previous owner filling in a swiming pool with "clean landfill" that includes huge rocks and chunks of concrete and rebar you can't mow over or even see properly due to weed growth. Yes, I'll knock the weeds down this winter, but neither trains or the vegetable garden are going to happen without some serious cleanup.
In addition, the next iteration of the New Boston and Donnnels Creek is going to be raised properly, high enough to weed and rerail trains without throwing out my back, and narrow enough that I can reach everything without climbing on the railroad. THAT will take some clever design, I know, but I'm not as young as I was in 1999 when I started the first iteration. So there is going to be a rented post-hole digger and a lot of holes and posts and stringers with backfill optional. I AM thinking of video recording everything so I can post it on YouTube for the next generation.
With the big garage, I plan to leave my table saw up permanently, which will make cutting trestle bents a lot less hassle, too. Time for a new jig.
An Offer That Includes the Railroad - After our home had been on the market for several weeks, we got an offer from a family that insisted we leave the railroad "as shown." (Which was a mostly-weeded ROW, a waterfall, a pond, lots of dwarf trees, two loops of track, and five bird feeders.) The only thing I'll miss that I could have moved is the track, which costs a lot more now than it did when I first installed it, and most of which is on its second set of tie strips. The family was enthusiastic about many of the home's other features, so I won't claim that the trainless railroad "sold" the property, but with two young boys, it didn't hurt. If everything goes through, I will give them a Bachmann Thomas set to run on it - again, I won't leave anything irreplaceable.
A Last "Main Event" - We had known for sometime that one of our daughters was getting married this October. But back when we made an offer on the "new old house" in May, we assumed we'd be moved by now. Since we weren't, my daughter asked if we could have the rehearsal dinner in our "old old house," as sort of a "goodbye" to it. Two young great-nephews who love trains were going to be there, so I picked up all the leaves on the track and cleaned it, then I picked up all the leaves the next day, too (it's that time of year). I had already moved all of my trains and accessories to the garage of the new house. So I brought back the Lionel Thomas and James and their cars, as well as two power supplies and five of my trashbashed Fisher-price city buildings and a bunch of figures. The title photo shows two of my daughters (not the bride) setting out the figures and test-driving the trains. I'm sorry that I don't have any photos of the little boys watching Thomas yet, but I hope someone took some I can share here.
Not that it's train-related, but we had a lot of really good food and way too many deserts. That night, I asked the girls to put the trains up and leave the rest. The monday night after the wedding, I picked up the buildings and power supplies, and packed everything up to go back to the "new" house.
So no, there weren't thousands of lights in the little trees, Christmas music playing in the background, four other railroads I usually set out for the kids to run, etc. But folks weren't there for the trains, this time - they were there for our family, and most specifically for the bride and groom-to-be. We DID set up the popcorn popper, but by the time everyone had eaten the great meal, no one was really hungry for popcorn. :-)
In a way it's fitting that the New Boston and Donnels' Creek's "last hurrah" came at these overlapping times of transition in our lives. Whatever we wind up building at the new place will not have the same meaning to our family, and especially to the girls who grew up with the railroad. And it will certainly be lower maintenance, based on 17 years of spending many way too many hours on my knees each season. But we're not getting any younger either, and it really is time to move on, physically and in other ways.
Conclusion At the moment, almost everything that made the New Boston and Donnels Creek what it was is in boxes in the garage of the new house, and most of it won't reappear before next spring or later. If you think you'd like to be part of the new railroad's construction, I guarantee you'll learn a whole lot you won't get out of the books. In case you wondered, the "new old house" is between Springfield and Enon, Ohio, just off "Dayton-Springfield" road, also known as 333 and (as it approaches Fairborn) 444. Just get in touch, and we'll keep you updated.
Enjoy your hobbies, and especially enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming season.
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