PDT Staff Writer
Dr. George Spears practiced medicine in Ironton and Portsmouth, as well as for the Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern), the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O), and the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton (DT&I) lines. He has a passion for trains, and sat and watched model trains go through their paces Saturday at the Model Train Show at Hill View Retirement Center in Portsmouth.
“The fascination is that we grew up with them,” Spears said. “I was born and raised at the end of the DT&I, Henry Ford’s old line, on Railroad Street in Ironton. And every time I would wake up in the morning, I would hear the train coming - the old steam engines. And by the time the steam engine got to where we lived in the middle of the street the train couldn’t pull all the cars, so the wheels started slipping. Cinders got up on the roof. We had to go up there and put the shingles out. Finally they got it so that the trains were heavier and could pull a bigger load. And then all we had to do was wait for Henry Ford to come down in his old parlor car. And if he saw anybody working on the road, chewing tobacco, he would fire them right away.”
Spears delights in telling how he passed the love for trains on to his children.
“We used to cross the Ironton/Russell Bridge over to Russell,” Spears, wearing his railroad hat, said. “The kids would sit there for an hour or so and watch the trains go by. Sometimes they were switching, going back and forth, and all of our children are interested in model railroads, because I just kept taking them over to watch the trains. They liked to see the cars go by.”
The Model Train Show has become an annual event at Hill View, where several generations come to watch and reminisce.
“We started this back in the early sixties down at what used to be Wesley United Methodisty Church,” Spears said. “At that time we had a model railroad layout down there, where all of the people who were members of the church who were interested used to help build and remodel. That went on until later. Then we moved the whole thing out here to Hill View. And I set up the trains down here in one of the rooms, and I had a model railroad layout for quite a number of years. Now Jim West has taken over. He caught the fever from me.”
West too has an obsession with model trains.
“It started back in 1948. And I got married in 1950, so that kind of took care of the model trains for a while,” West said with a chuckle. “But then when I retired I really got into it big time, into the (SOMC) Life Center Train Shows. I live here at Hill View now, and I have a nice room where I can work on the trains and to play with them, whatever it happens to be.”
West comes about it honestly. In fact, there has almost always been trains in his life.
“My dad worked at the railroad, and I spent 40 years at the railroad,” West said. “So I guess it’s just the fascination with small trains. It’s just the kid in me still.”
West had a table with a “N” scale train setup, and another with “H-O”
“That’s the two I work with,” West said. “And then there’s one size smaller than ‘N’ scale, and that is ‘Z’ scale. Then ‘H-O’ goes all the way up to ‘O’ and the big trains.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org