October 31, 2009

The Train That Pa Built

In my Week 15 of 52 Post I had a picture of us reading onto of the train. I received multiple requests for pictures and the story of our train. So here it is.

On the January night we celebrated Nathaniel’s second birthday, my parents came to have some cake. With her my mom brought a Mary Maxim craft catalog. She was so excited by something she just couldn’t wait to show us.

My dear husband is an extremely talented carpenter. He trained under a mentor as a custom trim carpenter when he was in high school with a man who became a very dear friend. This man can be described by only one word. “Artist” Allen worked his way through high school at David’s side and learned the tricks of the trade.

Along the way, he developed skills that have been a blessing to us time and again. They paid his way through Engineering School. In our early years, he used these talents on weekends and in the evenings to earn extra money allowing me to stay at home with our children until we were established. And they have been priceless in our seven year journey of remodeling our home.

My dear sweet mother adores my husband only second to me, and fully appreciates his talent with a saw and hammer. The previous summer he had built a play ground with a tree house in our backyard. He had turned our garage into a beautiful school room and was working his way through the house replacing windows, updating trim and laying hard wood floors.

Mom, had no doubt that he was capable of what he had in mind. Our Nathaniel was and is a train lover. He has been since he was barely able to walk. It started with Thomas the Train and has expanded to all things trains. When his dear Nana saw a wooden train that you can build in the back yard she knew that her first born grandson must have it.

As she pointed out the plans in the catalog, it all seemed so easy. We all got very excited thinking of the fun the boys would have climbing on it in our back yard. By the end of the evening we had picked a spot for it in the back yard and couldn’t wait for the Spring to come so work could get under way.

We quickly estimated how much the lumber would cost. It was a little expensive but, the kids would have years of fun and make lots of great memories. I was thrilled to get the plans on sale and free shipping, too. Mom was a hero. When the first spring day arrived dad and Allen took off work to pick up supplies at Home Depot. They hoped to have the track laid by the end of the day.

They left just after breakfast and I was surprised when lunch came and went and they still weren’t home. When the pair showed up, they were both less cheerful and optimistic than when they left. Turns out, it is a lot of lumber to build a train. It wouldn’t all fit in the truck. When all was said and done they made three trips back and forth. As you may have guessed they didn’t get any work done that day either. And we had to grumpy men on our hands.
And because the standards were being changed for the way pressure treated lumber were being changed it cost a lot more, too. Three times as much, in fact. This little project ended up cost us $1,500. But don’t forget I got free shipping.

I think dad threatened bodily injury to dear old mom. My husband would never do such a thing although; he did suggest that he might consider Mom’s ideas a little more in the future. I think the sweet lady was scared to come to our house for a while.

Work got under way shortly after that. By the end of the summer we had an engine, coal car and tank car. Nathaniel insisted on a box car so Allen drew up plans for one to add the following summer. Other home projects have halted the progress. We are still awaiting the doors on the box car and the caboose. No one ever notices that the wheels are still missing, though.

The kids played day in and day out on it over the years. Not only has it home to little engineers but also to the Boxcar children. Over the years it has taken them on adventures all over the world. They have picnicked in it. Made little houses for their dolls. Read books there on hot days. And this summer, it has been the train that crashed taken the Pevensie children on their final journey to Narnia in “The Last Battle.”

Everyone who drove by stopped to look at the piece of art. We became known as, the people on the corner with the train.

And it looks great decorated with Christmas lights, too.

After quite some time, Mom got her standing back with my sweet husband. Actually, it was just a few short years later, on Christmas night, as we all gathered by the wood stove in our basement, when Mom suggested we put a projector and drop down screen there for family movie nights.

Dad and Allen quickly became excited and took out tape measures to see where the built in units for the kids playroom could go.

Men are just like little boys. You would think they would learn. But presented with an opportunity to play with new tools, they lose themselves immediately in the fun.

The following June we were gutting the entire finished basement in order to begin a remodeling job that has now spanned two years. That is another story, though. You can read a little about in the Really Cheap Theater.


  1. I loved the train!^^

  2. AWESOME! I'll bet the kids do have a blast in that train.

  3. Hi, Kat~

    WOW! WOW! WOW! How awesome is that! If I had that in my back yard, I would be in it EVERYDAY! That would so be my favorite place to read, have a cup of tea/coffee and just be alone in the Word with my Head Conductor!



  4. Aww. What a great story!! And like you said.. money well spent seeing it will give them many many memories!!


  5. I didn't know that Allen had been a trim carpenter! Did we tell you that Mason did that? That's what he's been doing in Pigeon Forge. Oh and he went back today for some work Mr. Bill wanted him to do. He's going to see if he can work for Mr. Bill in the evenings so he can help me here with school and everything.
    I'm not sure if I want him to see this; next thing you know we'll have a similar train!
    Oh my! Just think if he and Allen got together!

  6. Kat,

    What awesome memories you kids have made during the years of the train! This will long outweigh the time and money spent creating it.

    Love it and so creative too!

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat