A tiny beam circled the dark corner of our cellar in West Peabody. No Tinker Bell flitting fairy, this was Daddy’s magic—a whole world in HO scale made just for us. Coal cars, flat cars, freight cars, hoppers—climbing, crossing, looping, stopping. My tank car was coupled behind Dave’s diesel locomotive. Next came Jeff’s boxcar and then little John’s caboose. Chug-a-chug-a-choo choo!
Hour upon hour Daddy had bent over a waist-high plywood board large as a bed; working and playing were always the same for him. The four of us watched in wonder, helping whenever possible. At one end of the board Daddy molded plaster mountains covering them with grass, rocks, shrubs, and trees. Using fine tools, model glue, and mighty patience he assembled a farmhouse, barn, water tank, and freight yard. With the addition of a schoolhouse, church, fire station, homes and businesses a small town grew. This was our Main Street with names in decals on the buildings to prove it—Dave’s Auto Parts, Chris’s Gas Station, Jeff’s Diner, and John’s Five and Dime. We were learning our importance.
Eight busy little hands arranged miniature accessories and figures. We positioned stoplights, cars, telephone poles, post boxes, fire hydrants, fences, and crossing gates. There were horses and cows to roam and graze the hills, tractors to plow fields, children to play in the schoolyard, and pedestrians to wander in shops. And railroad station personnel and travelers with suitcases always awaited the next arriving train. All aboard!
The straight tracks along the sides of the board had occasional turnouts or switches. Tracks ran up hills, over bridges and through tunnels then curved around at the ends. Hitched together in age descending order our cars moved as a unit. Daddy pushed the lever and we hummed along, the headlight from Dave’s engine leading the way as we circled our corner of the world.