Hear the train a comin’ at Oak Hill

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Pictured, Joe Berry stands in front of the toy train display he recently donated to Oak Hill. The set was sponsored by the Oak Hill Memorial Endowment Society. Berry will give a presentation about local trains and rail systems at Oak Hill in January.

Joe Berry has a passion for trains, both the full-size version and ones that can fit in his hand.

The Columbia man, with help from the Oak Hill Memorial Endowment Society, recently donated a double-track model train display to the Waterloo senior living center.

During a Dec. 11 presentation at Oak Hill, Berry explained the different scales of model trains and tracks and presented a variety of cars for the audience.

“When I was a kid in the 1950s, I got a Lionel train for Christmas,” Berry cited as the beginning of his interest in the hobby.

His father was also a station manager in Valmeyer for Missouri Pacific Railroad – whose trains ran through the bottoms – further aiding his fascination.

The functional model train display he donated to Oak Hill features a Missouri Pacific car as well as a GM&O replica, another line that ran through Monroe County in the past. 

Berry’s interest in model trains was curtailed for a while, but was renewed once his children grew up.

He now has a basement full of tracks and trains. Berry recently calculated that the 15 separate operational train track loops he set up occupy nearly 250 square feet.

While the display at Oak Hill features miniature houses, people and trees, Berry considers himself an “operator.”

“There are people who are into (train) reproduction and creating the landscapes… but I’m an operator. I just like to run the trains,” Berry explained.

During his presentation, he shared how his experience in operating has changed. Manual controls have been replaced with computerized versions to help control speed, but Berry has adapted with the technology.

He is also grateful for the opportunity to donate to Oak Hill, where his mother was once a resident.

“The nursing home has been a great institution” and “great for the community,” Berry said.

As a board member of the endowment society, Berry was happy to provide something extra for Oak Hill.

The endowment “funds things above and beyond” normal operating expenses, such as video equipment, non-medical transportation and specialized furniture.

Berry will be giving a presentation about the history of trains of Monroe County and beyond in January 2020.

The public is invited to see the train display at Oak Hill, which will be on display into the beginning of next year.

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