I have a boy who loves trains.

There are over 200 locomotives, tenders, freight cars, box cars, cattle cars, tank cars, hopper cars, and caboose in his room, in the train box, on his desk, on the walls, in videos and books, t-shirts, and, I'm sure, under the bed. On the rare occasion I make his bed I find errant engines between the mattress and bed frame and stuffed way down under the covers where his feet will someday reach.

He has been on more trains than most adults – let alone six year olds. I've got a shoe box full of pamphlets from lines all over California; Fillmore and Western Railway, Paris Orange Empire Railway, Sacramento Railway Museum, Yolo Short Line, Fort Bragg Skunk Train, not to mention the small scale lines like the one at Traintown in Sonoma and the Disneyland Railroad.

I had a man who loved the railroad.

Grandpa worked on the Union Pacific Railroad for long enough to get a gold pocket watch (suitable for framing) upon retirement in 1988. One day when I was very young I visited him in his tiny cramped office where he taught me how to work the telegraph. -.- .- - .. .

The earphones he got to wear weren't big like my dad had for listening to Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 on the reel to reel, these were small and elegant, shiny black. The table where he worked was cluttered full of equipment and metal things, tools and pencils. Papers and notes tacked and taped everywhere – and always the UP Locomotive Calendar.

He worked with his sleeves rolled up. When he'd come home for lunch he was always bleeding – a trickle would roll down his forearm while he picked up his tuna on white with mayo and butter.

“Grandpa, you're hurt!”

“Aw!” he'd growl and wipe (actually smear) the blood away “it's fine.” A Band Aid was rare and stitches never.

He had a quirk- he poured salad oil on nearly everything he ate. It only occurred to me in my adulthood to connect even this grandpa-ism to the trains. Trains are mechanical, steel on steel. If you don't keep those joints and gears greased up, you've got a 200 ton paperweight blocking your tracks. Grandpa was greasing up, keeping the tracks clear.

He was tough like the railroad. He was industrious like the trains. He was hard of hearing from the telegraph.

Riding a train with my train boy is a glimpse into paradise. He will teach you the way to get the most out of the visual stimulus - rest your cheek and forehead on the cold window and let your eyes flick when something in the countryside catches their attention.
A fallen tree
a jackrabbit
a junked out freight car

I heard an echo who loved steam.

Boppa died long before I was born, but he left a trail for me to follow. The family legend was that he “made the Disneyland Railroad”. As I grew older I realized how suspect this tale was... it takes a lot more than one guy to make a railroad – even a small scale one. Searches for his name being attached to Disney in any way came up nil.

My mother talked about her grandfather. He was happy-go-lucky. He was warm. The photograph of him is an old sepia print. His eyes are like little umbrellas from years of smiling. The man in picture is inviting me to find out more...

Digging through family records: a scrap of the family tartan, birth records from Germany, marriage records form Kentucky, cemetery records from Pennsylvania... and there it is. A little book about the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge and another called Little Railways of the World from Boppa's collection. And there, with a little handwritten note clipped to one edge reading “from John Edgar's estate – not of value”; A velum with the design specs for engine #1 the C.K Holliday. A velum with pencil marks put there by my Boppa nearly fifty years ago.

One more Internet search brought up an essay written by an old Imagineer. He was a green engineer of 22 when he was thrust into the world of the Steam Heads at Disney. The old fellows were all in their sixties and seventies – retired railroad men. They were all gruff and tough and didn't have much time to show the new kid much about steam vs gas. All of them except for Boppa, who took him under his wing and showed him the joys of Steam Locomotives. There was finally not only proof, but a great insight into my great grandfather's personality.

I felt like I just shook hands with him. Hello Boppa, nice to meet you.

My boy comes from a long line of train boys. He'd rather play trains than watch TV. He'd rather ride a train than do anything else in the world.

I have a boy who loves trains. I bet a million dollars that I never have to update this writeup.

Read about John Edgar Lingenfelter's time at Disney in the early 1950's at http://laughingplace.com/News-ID108030.asp

A recreation of Dale Allen's telegraph office can be found in the Canyon County Historical Museum at the old 1906 Union Pacific Depot in Nampa, Idaho.

Read more about Calvin here.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.