DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - What do you want to do when you grow up? How about play with trains?
“A friend of mine told me that there’s a couple of guys that are building a layout, that I ought to get in contact with and which I did,” said Olin Hall.
Seven retired professionals have a love for model trains that brought them together. They have a tradition they call “Training Day.”
“What makes it special is we all come from different disciplines," said Warren Wool. "And yet, we have found something that, in which we could contribute our individual talents.”
They are CPAs, chemical engineers, electricians, painters, woodworkers, and Air Force veterans.
“We’re all old men now. It gives us something to do. It gives us a reason past retirement to get up and go every Friday to ‘Training Day,’” Wool added.
It all started when Ed Schmitt and his wife bought a house in Denham Springs. The garage contained an unfinished small train set. Schmitt’s wife encouraged him to get it running.
“So, I did some research and decided to go up to Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders Club up in Jackson, Louisiana, and ran into a couple of guys,” Schmitt explained.
And that’s how the Anaconda Railway began.
“We built a 12 by 16 layout in the top of, in the loft of that other barn. I said, ‘Look, we need something better than this.’ I said, ‘If y’all willing to help,’ I said, ‘We can make it happen,’” Schmitt added.
Every Friday, these retired “big kids” got together to plan out and build a large landscape that resembles an Appalachian mountain train community.
“I couldn’t wait 'til Friday got here so I could come over here and work with the guys and figure out the layout and plan,” said ‘Uncle’ Dave Tanner.
It got so big that Schmitt decided to build an entirely new building just to house the railroad.
But what started out as a few retired guys just coming together to play with trains turned into something much deeper, true heartfelt friendship.
“I think it’s the comradery with the guys. We come in here and try to solve the world’s problems for that week and discuss political issues,” Tanner added.
“We enjoy each other’s company immensely, so it’s a real great time," said Arthur Genre. “We all look forward to every Friday.”
I call it ‘train camp,’ every Friday. I’ve been doing this for over five years,” Hall added.
“It’s not the trains; it’s the comradery we have here with these guys," said Frank Cwieka. "We get to go to lunch every day. We drink a few beers in the evening. And Warren over there even has a little surprise in the freezer that we can take a little nip once in a while!”
“And it’s the friendship with the others and just talking. It’s like going to Disney World!” said Hall.