Re: Article: Train lovers talk track

David Pressley

"I got to blow the whistle and I didn't get into to trouble."

Having once paid handsomely to play engineer for a couple of hours* on a vintage steam locomotive, I will attest that there is a lot to be said for getting to blow the whistle.

A whole lot.

*If anyone is interested, I'll tell you more about the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely, NV!


raea <> wrote:
Mentions Tweetsie ...

Train lovers talk track
Fairgrounds event draws railway fans

Thomas Goldsmith, Staff Writer
As another frustrating season of holiday travel loomed for highways
and airports, lovers of another mode of transport gathered at the
State Fairgrounds on Sunday to celebrate the lingering magic of
railroads, small and large.

More than four hundred people from several states crowded the aisles
of the fairgrounds' Holshouser Building for a Southeastern division
meeting of the Train Collectors Association. Along with items costing
from 50 cents to $1,000, holiday-fueled nostalgia for all sorts of
rail was on display.

"For people of my generation, trains are synonymous with Christmas,"
said Ron Curll, 60, of Greenville. "That fascination has spread out
through the years."

Like Curll, who remembers big holiday layouts of trains in downtown
department stores in Greenville, many collectors have affection for
both model trains and full-sized rail travel. In October, a member of
the state transportation board expressed cautious optimism that North
Carolina might enjoy high-speed passenger rail by 2015.

"I'd like to see it," Curll said.

"I travel by train and I travel by air, but anymore, by the time you
go through security at the airport, it's taken the fun out of travel."

Visiting train fans paid $5 to get in Sunday's event, and a record 170
or so shelled out $15 for a display table. Those who wanted to set up
miniature towns by their tracks could buy vintage Plasticville
replicas of businesses such as the Frosty Bar and the Auto Laundry.

Also attracting browsers and buyers, of course, were hundreds of
different-sized train lines -- from a 2007 Lionel set depicting Harry
Potter's Hogwarts-bound train to venerable standards like the Santa Fe
and the Baltimore & Ohio.

"I've been collecting these since I was 5 years old," said Jerry
Anthony, 60, of Wake Forest, on hand along with son Kyle, 13. "This is
a fun winter sport."

The Anthonys were one of many intergenerational sets of visitors. In
another part of the round exhibit building, Dan Koenigshofer, 58, and
son Matthew, 6, of Chapel Hill, watched intently as miniature trains
chugged around a model village complete with firemen battling a smoky

"Between ages about 8 and 13, I had an ... [HO} train that I built and
worked on," Dan Koenigs-hofer said, noting that he and Matthew are
"train chasers" who sometimes hop in the car just to catch sight of a
moving train. But they don't often ride real trains -- at least, not

"The problem is that the connections out of Raleigh are so lousy," Dan

As an alternative, train fans at the show rattled off several
tourism-driven opportunities for people to get a taste of the old rail
days in North Carolina. They include the New Hope Valley Railroad in
Bonsal and the N.C. Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. Of two
attractions in the mountains, Tweetsie Railroad travels out of a theme
park near Boone, and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad leaves from
Dillsboro and Bryson City on a variety of excursions.

Favored mode of travel

If nostalgia is at work in people's desire to return to rail travel,
it may reflect a yearning for an easier trip, some attendees said.

Air travel is quicker, but leaves a passenger waiting at a suburban
airport for luggage that may or may not materialize, then forces them
to take a shuttle or taxi to their in-town destination.

But a rail rider traveling to New York City, for example, can arrive,
luggage in hand, at Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.

"It's more convenient," Curll said. "And you get to see more of the

The appeal of trains can be tough to shake. Collector Bob Maxwell of
Rocky Mount was brought up by a family of "rail nuts," then worked in
education until he was 35. But in 1974, he signed on with the Seaboard
Coastline and worked on the railroad for 30 years, retiring as a CSX
locomotive engineer.

"I got to blow the whistle, and I didn't get in trouble," said
Maxwell, 68, beaming.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.-com or (919) 829-8929

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