The Train Man

by | Jun 3, 1999 | Giving, God's Hands

WOW! Was all I could say as I stood there marveling at the display of toy trains. I had never seen such a display. Dozens of them running all directions. Over miniature mountains, through tunnels, stopping here and there to play like they filled with water, load miniature bundles of firewood, whistling, tooting, it was amazing. A giant room of nothing but trains running, working. Some looked like they were going to run into one another, but just in time they would duck into a hidden pass to come out on the other side climbing a steep grade towards a forest of trees. I couldn’t believe what this must have cost let alone the enormous amount of time to build and put this together.

I had been running my fishing lines tied close to the shore of the point in the lake where this man had this huge castle like house. He owned the whole point adjacent to the boy’s camp on one side and the girl’s camp on the other. He allowed kids from the camps to come over to watch and run the trains. He also saw that kids from several area children homes were picked up by private bus to come spend the day enjoying them from time to time.

He had seen me and walked down to the waters’ edge to chat with me as I baited and took a few fish off the lines. He asked me if I’d like to have a cold drink or soda and see his toy train collection. I had seen the house for years standing majestically on the point and wondered about who lived there and what they did. This was my chance to find out.

The tops of the mountains each had a gold cross, one was of the crucifixion. One of the station houses had a manger and Christmas scene behind it. Oddly there was a building with a sign on it that said, “Orphanage”.

Scanning the rooms’ magnificent furnishings I noticed a beautiful armoire, elegantly hand carved from giant Lebanese cedar with glass doors. Something that puzzled me were the two or three pairs of shirts and pants hanging in it on display. Tattered shirts and pants that were a boys size. Small shoes too, stuffed with paper and cardboard. The holes were obvious.

Musing, I asked, “There’s a story here, isn’t there?” He replied, “Funny you figured it out. How did you do it?”

“Well, there are too many things that an amusement hobby would not have displayed here.”

He went on to tell me about his early years in an orphanage and school. Before he was adopted out to a nice, but very poor family they would go to town from the orphanage. He would see the train displays in the store windows and parents buying their children those as well as other nice toys. He never got anything for the holidays except a piece of fruit. They were always cold in the winter too.

After he was adopted they worked hard to just have the necessities of life. In school he always had the poorest of clothes and the most meager fare to eat and little of it. The other children had everything they could want and often teased him about his clothes and food.

He looked at me and said, “I dismissed their actions long ago as just being kids. I don’t want a needy child in this area to ever go without playing with trains or having fun things to do or a place to do them.”

These crosses are mementos to my parents who were killed when I was small, my wonderful wife, the kind couple who raised me, and the kind teachers who helped me learn and gave me special treats from time to time when others wouldn’t share and Jesus who led me to the successes and rewards beyond my wildest dreams.”

Here I was, standing, getting the story of this place I had seen for so many years.

As I sat reading the clipping, “Successful Businessman Leaves Legacy and Perpetual Foundation To Area Children” I just couldn’t hold back the tears. He’s joined his wife, parents, kind teachers and children.

Reflections By Mark Crider


The Train Man