All aboard! Engine 351 is set to make her way down the Madison Line all the way from Christmasville (located at the North Pole, of course).
Madison Senior Living Community residents, 71-year-old Jim Weimer and 95-year-old Ruthe Barker, have transformed a collection of odds and ends into a colorful replication of a favorite toy from Christmases past.
The decorative train features an engine (with Santa himself acting as engineer), three freight cars, and a caboose with a working door.
Taking inspiration from their living community, the duo christened their project “Madison Lines,” and numbered the engine “351” after the facility’s address.
And like those kids in that Christmas song about a magical snowman, Barker and Weimer used whatever they found at hand to bring their creation to life — Mason jar lids function as wheels, an oatmeal canister forms the body of the locomotive, and a coffee creamer pack doubles as the headlamp.
But unlike the recent Amtrak derailment, the worst thing that can happen on the Madison Lines is a delay in breakfast.
The couple spent a week and-a-half, from sun up to sundown, carving up and painting miscellaneous cardboard boxes during the train’s construction, they said.
“You should see her with an X-ACTO Knife,” laughed Weimer. “She’s a real whizzbang!”
Barker had practice making things out of old boxes before. During previous Christmases, she and her son had made buildings to put under their trees — a church or two one year, a covered bridge the next — each year adding something until they had an entire town, she reminisced.
That is likely what brought forth the idea for the train.
“I came up with the idea. I got a lot of those running around up here,” Barker said with a bespectacled wink.
Weimer was eager to get on board because of his own love for train sets.
“I got my first train set when I was seven, Christmas 1953 — an American Flyer — and I still have it and it still runs!” he said.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.