Random Thoughts

"Close, but no cigar."

... Melrose had three stations on the Boston & Maine Railway.

by Arthur H. Whitman

Mr. Colby lived just across Upham Street from the Driscoll home. He had built a model train track that seemed to cover most of his basement. From a central station he could control each train's speed, and in the beginning the switches were manual with a neighborhood kid assigned to operate each switch. I was privileged to be one of those neighborhood kids... I must have been 10 or 11 and still in the Winthrop School.

It was great fun for an hour or so on a weekend. Some of the trains were models of the steam locomotives we saw huffing and puffing and seeming to race along those steel rails from Wyoming to Melrose Station and on to Melrose Highlands and Reading. My father took the B&M every morning into Boston to work, and kids my age prized a penny flattened on those steel tracks.

The models could blow smoke from their stack just like the real coal-fired ones chugging through the center of town.  And they could sound their whistle, too.

Sometimes one of the "switch-men" threw the switch the wrong way and there was a near-miss as Mr. Colby hurriedly tried his best to avoid a crash. If successful, he would shout, "Close, but no cigar" not that any of us really wanted one of those smelly things.

I don't think any girls were ever invited into this close association with trains. Eventually Mr. Colby installed remote-controlled switches, and of course, we grew up and went on to more exciting challenges.


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