Last year, I asked for a train for Christmas. What did my husband think of such a request? He loved it! Why? I think because he can relate better to gifts like computers, cameras, cell phones, binoculars, etc. including anything mechanical. In all fairness I
must say he gets me the feminine things I like, too, such as a Gentle Spirit’s jewelry creations. He has several trains, but this one would be mine. He has always regretted selling his train he had as a kid. He did it after we were married and money was short. He says it was a Lionel and would be worth a lot today.
I remember my dad’s train. He would set it up under our family Christmas tree, so to me trains and Christmases go together. It wasn’t that I enjoyed running it, with its big, noisy transformer. In fact, the four of us kids were warned not to touch it. I’ve often wondered how his parents afforded to buy him a Lionel. I remember he said he was fourteen when he got it and that would make the year 1926. It was big and heavy, I think standard gauge. a passenger type train. It’s at times like this I wish I had asked more questions of my dad while he was still living.
The train I wanted, had to be steam and be reminiscent of that age, the one I got is much more than I expected. It is not antique, it’s new. I’m not sure what happened to my dad’s train. Some years ago, he gave it to my brother, Don, and Don may have passed it on to his son. Mine is a Rail King, Pennsylvania 4-6-0 and is a real beauty as it puffs smoke and smoke rings from its stack. It is so authentic and we wanted to add to its authenticity, so we bought the smoke liquid that smells just like Anthracite coal. That was too much for us as it filled the house with the coal smell and burned the eyes. Now the smoke drops we use are odorless. My train has a headlight, a digital sound system, is remotely controlled and even talks to me. When it stops for water, a voice says, “Turn on the injector.” It is amazingly realistic, looking incredibly detailed.
Needless to say we have lots of train videos in our house and have attended many train shows and museums. I guess the fact that I always liked my dad’s train, plus my husband’s interest in them caused me to catch the fever. We watch the movie, “Wonderful Life,” nearly every Christmas Eve, with its popular, old fashioned Bedford Falls train station and the old western films usually feature a train.
Trains are still among the ten most asked for Christmas gifts. It’s a childhood passion for many kids. I love to see them on the floor “nose to nose” with a train as it roars around the Christmas tree. It’s not uncommon, though, for kids to lose interest and find it taken over by dad. Way back in 1880, founder of Lionel trains, Joshua Lionel Cowen, fashioned a hand carved wooden train powered by steam. In 1900 he formed Lionel manufacturing and by 1921 more than a million Lionel trans had been sold.
Some may think that it’s quite unnatural for a grown woman to want a train for Christmas, but then “normal” can become terrible boring in life. I guess my childhood passion has been fulfilled. My train is up and puffing away. When the room lights are turned off its headlight casts unusual shadows that bring back memories of a rich and varied history. Is it possible that this is a yearning of other adults, maybe already met years ago?
As you hang your favorite tree ornament and sing your favorite Christmas carol they may evoke the sounds and smells of Christmas Past. Don’t be surprised if included among them is the sound of a passing steam train. Have a Merry Christmas and as you open your gifts this year, praise God from whom all blessings flow.
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