We visited the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale Arizona this week and found it a joy. I must admit that I went there to see toy trains in action. Peg went with me because she likes a day out no matter what. My secret plan was to take her through the parts of the park she would enjoy first, then I would finish with a visit to the Model Railroad Building.
The history of this park begins with an evil “one-per-center” who bequeathed his personal estate including his backyard railroad on one hundred acres to Scottsdale. I’m talking about a Walt Disney style railroad that one rides on and drives like an engineer. Scottsdale made it into a public park.
We arrived there and headed for the restrooms. A playground opposite crawled with young moms and their toddlers climbing all over the playground. A line of yellow school buses queued at the entrance and lines of kids ushered by teachers boarded. We proceeded to the train station and bought tickets for two of the attractions that required them. The museum consists of a historic train depot from Peoria, Arizona. A gentleman wearing a Railroad Conductor’s uniform and cap took our tickets and greeted us warmly.
Immediately, the first display case caught my attention. Inside were three HO-scale model railroad cars depicting the train that carried President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s casket to his home in Hyde Park from Warm Springs, Georgia where he died. Since the cabinet stood next to the Conductor who took our tickets, I asked him if the real Pullman cars represented by these models are still in existence. He pointed out the window at two cars standing next to the building, and said, “there are two of them.” The Conductor’s name tag read “Bob.” Peg and I spent thirty minutes in front of that display case asking Bob questions about the history of FDR’s death and his use of private Pullman Rail cars as his personal transportation while he served his presidency. We learned that in the beginning of his term, the government leased a car for his travel needs. After WWII began, the Secret Service purchased a car and had it made bullet proof. This car became U.S. One.
We finally broke from Bob and moved into the first car on display. Peg and I were reading and looking at historic photos when Bob appeared from nowhere to continue his personal tour. His knowledge of this era of trains is significant. If you visit the Park, I recommend you ask for Conductor Bob. FYI, tour guides are not part of the package. Bob took a shine to us because we are good listeners.
Bob took us through his effort to have the President’s Pullman on the Register of Historical Places. It took several years and loads of documentation to finally get approval, and they never told him that he got it. Bob is not one to let these things slide so he followed up. He learned from the Feds that they send official notification to the State official in charge of historical places. His boss finally pressured Arizona to send a letter of notification. I read the letter posted on the wall and learned his name is Robert Adler.
We finally moved into the second car. Bob led us and explained each compartment. His attention to detail was amazing. We learned too many things about the sleeping habits of FDR. At the end of this long car is a parlor room where the president held meetings. In it is a couch, and several easy chairs. Pictures of FDR taken from inside this room filled the wall above the windows. Several more people entered and Peggy moved to leave, but Bob grabbed her by the arm and held on. Strange I thought, what is that all about? With all the people coming through the room we shuffled aside. Bob continued to hold on to Peg’s arm. He looked like he wanted to dance with her. Ultimately we learned why he did that. He asked her to sit in a chair in the corner of the room. She finally did sit down with his gentlemanly help. Bob then posed her in the chair placing one arm on the rest. He then pointed to a photo near the chair.”You are now sitting in the same place where FDR sat while traveling in this car.” Bob had posed her in the exact sitting position that FDR had in the photo above. It was a Kodak moment.
By this time, my blood sugar was screaming for nourishment. We lunched on the worst hamburgers ever cooked on the patio under an umbrella and watched the birds.
The miniature train was next to the lunch wagon so we headed there for our ride. It takes all of ten minutes to traverse a very nice figure eight through the park.
Finally, we found the Model Railroad Building. Three separate clubs operate the three layouts, O-gauge, HO-gauge, and teensy-weeny N-gauge. All of them are works in progress with club members working on separate projects to complete building mountains, bridges, tunnels, towns, roads, to make realistic dioramas of life with trains.
My camera began to slow down, and I had to change batteries after taking just a few photos. We completed the O-gauge layout when a nice young woman came up to me and politely said, “I’m sorry sir, but it is after four o’clock and the building closed at four.” She guided us to the exit, and unlocked the door to let us out. As we left I said to her, “this is the most respectable place I’ve been thrown out of.”
The Original Version of FED EX
Conductor Bob poses with Peg
The Clock is from Scottsdale’s sister town in Switzerland
Roald Amundsen, first explorer to reach the South Pole.
Bob posed Peg like FDR
FDR sits in same chair in same place on the Roald Amundsen Pullman car
Filed under: Biography, Characters I knew, Education, family, Government, Travel | Tagged: Dwight D. Eisenhower, FDR, Historic Register, HO-gauge, Hoover, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, N-gauge, O-Gauge, Pullman, Robert Adler, Scottsdale, Truman, U.S. One, Walt Disney | Leave a comment »