The Belmont Shore Railroad Club will bring out the kid in anyone and everyone...
I was looking for a place to revisit today which I have not been in a while. Actually, last night I went to see Ian perform at LMU for the PEP rally kick off. Ian played excellent, but I really missed him after it was over. In the old days, six months ago, I got to drive him home and talk about the experience and sometimes that was my favorite part. I did not realize how much energy that supercharged me with.
Ian and I have visited the Belmont Shore Railroad Club for over twenty years. It is really something special, and we are lucky to have it situated in San Pedro, above the Korean Bell and Mammal Rescue Center. It is very appropriately located amid the historic bungalows making up the barracks of old Fort MacArthur. Within the two story wooden building is several hundred feet of narrow gauge track and a lot of dedicated Model train hobbyist doing what the love best.
I watched the dad and moms raise their kids to see the highlights: a train going over a bridge, coming out of a tunnel, racing through a miniature towns-cape. It is still magic, now, more so, in watching families introduce their children to the fascinating world or model training. Rewarding too, is observing those involved in the creation, upkeep, and running of the several life like systems, all very young at heart.
It was open house and Ray, a man I have seen many times, greeted me as it was "open house." I know Ray is not a qualified therapist, but he is a great listener. He was so patient when I unloaded on his the past several years of Ian life in relationship to the trains, and how it was pure magic to Ian. Ray remembered me and was aghast when I informed I recently dropped that "wide eyed little boy" off at college. Open house is really a great time to visit but you can also stop by on Tuesday nights. Every single engineer present was busy tending to the trains, but more so helping families experience the event and get the most from it. They were more than willing to share secrets and at the same time build on the wonderment of it all.
The club established in Long Beach 1971 mover to its current location in 1979. It is an actual train run created with a specific destination and theme in mind. The track makes sense. Every time I visit I see something new. This time I noticed a Sunmaid Raisin warehouse.
After the visit I really felt a connection with a very important part of Ian's life. So many of us have a connection to railroad, and I am not sure I can put my feeling on why. Maybe it is the connectivity...one distant place to another, a tie that binds. It is inspirational to me to sit back and acknowledge the care and vision of those Railroaders who manned the Railroad Club this last Saturday. The trains are and extension of themselves, and one which they don't mind at all sharing with others.
I spent a bit of time walking up and down the elevated train display. At one point I found an very unfinished area in the back but still in plain sight. I thought how cool that was, and I reminded me of a saying in the martial arts in regards to training: 'there is not beginning because there is no end." Thus the unfinished is metaphorical to me in that I know these railroad builders are not going to finish anytime soon, of ever forever. They are like the fisherman who fishes without a hook. They are part of the rare group of people who pride themselves in participating in an experience for the sake of that experience, not just the end result. Selfishly, I hope they never finish...just keep on building and refining and miniaturizing a part of our Western American culture. The members of this club and their willingness to share it with everybody is really nothing short of remarkable.