That pioneering spirit

Ray Criscoe
Ray Criscoe

And we’re off!

As soon as I found Rob Herronen’s house down a narrow drive off of Spero Road, we were in his backyard checking out his train setup.

And a few minutes later, I was taking this photo, sitting on a flatbed rail car, being pulled down part of the 450 feet of track he has laid so far, about a third of the vision he has for his property.

It’s interesting enough that he’s building a working train track with steam and diesel engines and all the usual railroad amenities: Switches, RR crossing signs, even a crossbar to stop traffic for a train coming through.

But when you hear it’s not just for fun but it has a purpose — to drag wood up from his forested land to his wood stove as a start, but the list of applications is constantly growing — that’s when you get really impressed by the thought put into this grand plan.

And it is a grand plan. He laid down some pieces of track in 2001, but realized the grading was off and it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t until November 2006 that he earnestly dove into the project. Since then, he’s been on the lookout for trains, cars and any other paraphernalia that would make the final masterpiece worthy of that descriptive word.

And it would be a masterpiece. It’s the little things that create works of art. He doesn’t have to have wood-carved signs on his new two-track engine house that say “Track 1” and “Track 2” on one side and “Pine Hill Engine House” on the other, but he does. Electronic switches for his multi-track areas. Railroad crossing warnings; who might come across, his cat?

But, once you get to know Rob, you find out that, yes, he does HAVE to do all those things. He is an artist in his own right. And he wants to keep such art alive.

“It’s a hobby,” he says, “but it almost feels like it’s dying off, like a lot of these things that require people to work with their hands.

“You just don’t have the involvement anymore with the young kids. It’s so sad because I think they would have a blast.”

He is doing what could turn into decades of work mostly by himself, but he would like to teach some up-and-comers who want to learn and help him build.

“I’m more than willing to share. I’m hoping that someone else is going to come along after me and say, ‘I think I might want to keep this up.’ ”

I certainly appreciate him sharing his story with HUB readers,
but it’s that pioneering spirit that needs to really carry on.

Contact RAY CRISCOE at rcriscoe@asheborohub.com.

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