- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - An Amtrak train made its way around a bend and stopped at Wilson Station in Wilsonvillle. Conductor Juan Wilson had reached his childhood destination.

The almost 80-year-old Crawfordsville resident now has the two-track train set he had yearned for since he was 10 years old.

Wilson was a boy when a train ride shaped his dream of having an elaborate train set. He had a small set as a child, but his dream stayed with him through his adult years.

“I come down here for an hour in the afternoon and sometimes a couple hours at night,” Wilson told the Journal Review (https://bit.ly/1j3ySZ7 ). “It is my dream that has finally come true. It took me 70 years to do it, but it happened.”

He had the 17-by-12-foot train set constructed in his basement by Al Heplar of West Lafayette. Heplar worked on the train set for a year and a half at the rate of four hours per week. Wilson’s son Juan Wilson Jr. constructed the table’s frame with plywood, sheet metal and rollers.

Wilson was a Crawfordsville police officer for 20 years and then worked for the state highway department for 30 years. He retired four years ago and fondly remembers some of his train experiences.

As a police officer, Wilson often stopped to talk to a tower observer near the train tracks on Mill Street. One time he rode the train to RR Donnelley when he was off duty.

Crawfordsville also was an inspiration for Wilsonville. The two train lines that run through the fictional town are the Amtrak and Monon.

“I remember seeing the Monon come through when I worked at the police department,” Wilson said. “Now we have the Amtrak.”

The train table has a 1940s look to it, with older cars spread throughout. Wilson designed it that way in honor of his childhood.

It contains buildings, which light up for a nighttime city skyline. The walls surrounding the table portray a blue sky with a few clouds.

“A city has to have a church, jail, filling station, school and post office,” Wilson said. “We just moved the buildings where we could, but it got to the point where we did not have any more room. We considered a lot of details when we put this together.”

Some of those details include animals, telephone lines and a transformer. The city has four distinct areas. It starts with a farm area and proceeds into the city area, which consists of a bank, school, gas station, jail, cemetery and business buildings. A coal plant occupies the west side of the track and a mountain region stands on the right side.

The mountains, which were made out of stainless steel and papier-mâché, have two tunnels that run through them. Heplar finished the mountain with artificial grass. A few deer, pine trees and billboards also stand on the mountain top. A stream also flows down the mountain and into a pond, where a few people fish.

However, Wilson’s “pride and joy” is the river that runs alongside the farm house. It flows through a stainless steel tray decorated with rocks and runs down into a five-gallon bucket below the table. A two-way pump keeps the river flowing.

The river scene is complete with two men fishing on it from the back of the farm house. One fisherman caught a fish, which flows with the river.

With his dream in mind, Wilson has attended train shows for the past few years. The shows gave him ideas for his track, but his original plan continued to influence him.

“This is how I imagined it when I was 10 years old. It brings me back to my childhood,” Wilson said. “I can imagine myself as a 10-year-old sitting here and watching the trains go by.”


Information from: (Crawfordsville) Journal Review, https://www.journalreview.com

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