Bill Joy has set interest in steam engines on fire – literally.
The retirement hobby began with a magazine from a German company selling steam engine sets that a person could buy and build. That was in about 2000 or so, he said.
He purchased a kit and set about making the large-scale model train that uses coal to run on steam, some track and cars to add on to the engine and the hobby began.
He and wife Connie have made the pastime social by becoming members of the Central Iowa Garden Railway Society and attending monthly meetings.
The large-scale trains are set on tracks that are built outside and left out all winter. Bill said his track isn’t particularly fancy and is still a work in progress.
Connie said, “We planted some trees that were supposed to be miniature as part of our garden that the train goes through, but t hey grew up kind of tall.”
Bill said he also wants to add a mountain to the layout. Some members of the garden club set up elaborate train gardens, with bridges, water features, depots, towns, flowers, trees and much more. In fact the Central Iowa Garden Railway Society has set up train gardens on display for Des Moines-Area home and garden shows, and for a number of special events in Perry.
Bill has added a feature to his train set that allows him to run his trains into the garage, onto a lift and then raise the lift so he can move and work on the trains without having to bend over al the time.
Currently, Bill has two steam engines being repaired so they can be used again when the weather breaks this spring.
Bill said he’s not exactly sure why he likes the steam engines so much because it is a lot of work. “It takes 45 minutes to an hour to get the coal fire going and ready, and then it runs for about 10 minutes.”
But, he said, he loves to watch steam engines at work and it brings back childhood memories.
Bill and Connie also like the social aspect of the Railway Society. “You meet people you never would have met otherwise. They are from all walks of life with the only thing in common,” he said.
At the monthly meetings, which have been held in Perry a couple of times, the members share their ideas, their trains and their gardens with others. Sometimes they have workdays where members can go to help other members work on their gardens, tracks or trains.
Bill added, “It is just a bunch of people enjoying playing with their toys. It is a great break from work and from retirement.”